On Thursday 20 July 2023, EESC President Oliver Röpke was honoured to invite the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, to the premises of the EESC in order to discuss the state of human rights inside and outside the European Union with representatives from important civil society organisations (CSOs). The conference was a continuation of the straight and productive collaboration between the UNHCHR Volker Türk, EESC President Röpke, the EESC Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law Group, and CSOs, in the run-up to the 75 years anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
EESC President Röpke highlighted one of the leitmotivs of his political priorities as laid down in his Manifesto, namely the fight for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, within the EU, but also outside the EU such as in neighbouring countries. In order to counter shrinking space for civil society, President Röpke stressed that the EESC advocates the creation of a Civil Society Forum on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law, building on significant steps already undertaken by the EESC in the past years to strengthen its mandate in the field of human rights, the facilitation of civil society participation models, and the bridging of the gap between decision-makers and civil society actors.
The UNHCHR Volker Türk then went on to answer the questions of the many representatives from civil society, amongst others on the state of the rule of law; human rights aspects related to migration; the right to a clean and healthy environment; digital and human rights; the defense of human rights; and human rights and foreign policy.
UNHCHR Türk and EESC President Röpke agreed that the reinforced cooperation between the two institutions is a model to be built upon in the near future. President Röpke reiterated his determination to position the EESC as a convening space for civil society in Brussels and to facilitate dialogue on human rights.