The EESC welcomes the Commission's Communication, and its efforts to use other instruments to strengthen the rule of law. The EESC believes essential to involve as much as possible the civil society in the conception and implementation of these instruments and to amplify the voices standing up for fundamental rights and rule of law in the Member States. The EESC therefore regrets that the reflection period around the Communication has not been longer to allow for a deeper consultation.
Civil society organisations, human rights defenders, journalists and whistle-blowers play key watchdog functions. The EESC calls the EU and Member States to increase their protection. The next Multiannual Financial Framework should reinforce these actors' capacity to perform monitoring, awareness raising, advocacy and litigation activities as regards fundamental rights and the rule of law in all Member States.
The future Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Fundamental Rights should also be in charge of the supervision of an enabling environment for the civil society, human rights defenders and journalists. The EESC also repeats its call for the creation of an EU Ombudsman on civic space.
The EESC recalls its support for an inter-institutional framework to monitor respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law in EU Member States. This legally binding mechanism should encompass a preventive component allowing experts and civil society representatives to propose early warning on specific developments and debate proposals for solutions including all relevant stakeholders.
The EESC proposes to establish an EU annual Forum on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law to allow EU decision-makers to receive early warning about emerging challenges to Article 2 TEU directly from grassroots organisations. This forum would also facilitate mutual learning, confidence-building and transnational collaboration between all relevant stakeholders (businesses, trade unions, civil society organisations, National Human Rights Institutions, and public authorities).
Education, both formal and non-formal, has a key role to play in building the democratic and rule of law culture. The EESC calls on the European Commission to propose an ambitious Strategy on communication, education and citizen awareness of fundamental rights, the rule of law and democracy.