November 6, 2012
Today the LIBE and AFET Committees of the European Parliament accepted the report of Monika Flašíková Beňová on the Situation of fundamental rights in the European Union. The report welcomes the steps undertaken by the European Commission in order to ensure that the legislative proposals comply with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. And this is all when it comes to the compliments addressed by the MEPs to the Commission, EU Agencies and Member States.
The report stresses the lack of transparency in the Commission’s dialogue with Member States when fundamental rights or the interests of European citizens are at stake and the lack of transparency in the EU agencies, which makes it difficult to ascertain whether or not their actions comply with the principles of transparency, good administration, data protection and anti-discrimination, as well as of necessity and proportionality. The report condemns the blockade of the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, which is caused by some of the Member States (which unfortunately are not named in the report). The report called on Member States to properly fulfill their obligations under international law, which they have so far failed to do, to investigate serious human rights violations carried out in the context of cooperation with the CIA counter-terrorism programme, and to afford full redress to the victims.
The report stresses the weak reaction or lack of reaction from the Commission when specific fundamental rights violations occur in Member States. MEPs called on the Commission to build an early warning and monitoring system based on art. 7 of the TEU and art. 258 of the TFEU in order to react speedily to violations.
The report also refers to the role of the EP in the promotion of human rights. The LIBE Committee should cooperate closer with national parliamentary committees dealing with human rights in the assessment of EU legislation’s impact at the national level.
MEPs express their dissatisfaction with the failure to extend the madate of the Fundamental Rights Agency to police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters and the lack of consultations of the Agency multi-annual framework with the EP which represents the European vox populi.
The report refers to 10 particular groups of rights. MEPs called on the Member States to establish complaints procedures which ensure that a victim of multiple discrimination can lodge a single complaint addressing more than one ground of discrimination. MEPs consider appropriate to support the activities of human rights defenders and the development of collective actions by marginalised people and communities.
As to the minorities the EP highlighted the need to regulate the situation of stateless people residing in the EU and called on both the Commission and Member States to develop strategies for Roma inclusion.
Referring to equal opportunities MEPs regretted the limited impact of the EU and national initiatives in the area of inequality between men and women, particularly in the context of employment.
MEPs stressed the need to increase the investigation of hate crimes against LGBT people. The report calls on the Commission to propose a review of the Council Framework Decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law including other forms of bias crime, for example on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Member States have been urged to adopt national frameworks to address LGBT discrimination and to recognize same sex partnership provisions among Member States. The report expresses concerns over discrimination in employment of youth, elderly and disabled people.
MEPs stressed that the reform of the EU’s data protection regime should increase transparency and awareness of data protection rights and make the remedies and sanctions more effective. The report stresses that lowering existing standards and reducing national competences, including those of constitutional courts, is out of the question.
The report also underscores the need to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families by all Member States. The MEPs stressed their commitment to ensuring full parliamentary scrutiny of the EU’s JHA Agencies, notably Europol, Frontex, Cepol, Eurojust, and the Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems. They condemned the proposals relating to the reintroduction of Schengen border controls, as this would undermine free movement within the EU and the functioning of Schengen cooperation.
The report stresses, after the ECtHR and the CJEU, the need to improve victims’ rights and access to justice, particularly the need for Member States to increase the availability of information about criminal defense rights.
Referring to EU citizenship, the report calls on the Commission to conduct a comparative study on electoral rights at the national and the EU level in order to identify divergences that have an unfair impact on certain categories of persons in the EU. Member States should launch a campaign in order to increase the number of citizens who stand and vote in the EP elections.
The report should be considered as a good first step to establish the control of the EP over human rights activity of other EU institutions. However, the report alone, without any follow-up process, might be insufficient to effectively change the human rights reality. It should also be noted that while MEPs criticize the Commission and EU Agencies, they themselves are often the source of human rights violations. The works on the EU directive on access to a lawyer will be a trial. We will see to what extent the EP is willing to restore the directive’s guarantees to the wording proposed by the Commission and to the ECtHR standards.
Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, “Europe of Human Rights”