Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law
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The EU is not only a common market; it is a union of common values that shape the European identity. These values are set out in the Treaty on the European Union and also include the rights, freedoms and principles laid out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights: the "indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; [the Union] is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice."
The Charter brings together into a single text all the personal, civic, political, economic and social rights enjoyed by people within the EU and apply to the EU institutions and Member States when they implement EU law.
The EESC is very active in the promotion of fundamental rights, the rule of law and democracy, and especially in the fight against discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, disability or gender. In 2018, it established the Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law to further expand analysis of the situation across Europe and promote a constructive dialogue amongst all stakeholders.
Corruption and the lack of rule of law undermine the mutual trust that is underpinning the internal market. This opinion should contribute to bringing attention to how challenges to the rule of law affect the internal market and in particular public procurement.
Currently, there are elements in the current framework cause an uneven processing of API data across the EU, thus resulting in security gaps and uncertainty for both data subjects, air-carriers and national authorities. Therefore the proposal aims to address such gaps to ensure effective processing of API data with clear rules and transparency, and in full consistency with the interoperability of EU information systems for borders, security and migration management, EU data protection requirements, and other existing EU instruments and international standards, while ensuring facilitation of legitimate travellers.
The directive adopted in 2011, is the fundamental EU legislative act addressing trafficking in human beings. It establishes minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions; common provisions to strengthen victim's protection, assistance and support, as well as prevention; key actors to fight against the crime.
This Opinion welcomes the European Media Freedom Act and all the related EU initiatives aiming to address the worrying developments in the area of media freedom over the last years. The Opinion entails a number of recommendations concerning editorial and journalists' independence; the need for financial resources to ensure independence of public media; transparency in the allocation of State advertising; transparency of media ownership. The Opinion also calls for measures to ensure the independence of national regulatory bodies, especially in the context of the future European board for media services. It also considers that EU anti-concentration law should be used where national regulators fail to address media market concentration.
The EESC believes that any phenomenon of antisemitism is incompatible with European values and norms, as it leads to violations of the law and to exclusion, which is a threat not only to the communities concerned and Jewish life, but also to Europe's heritage and present, and to a democratic European future. The Committee broadly supports the establishment of the Strategy and the fact that it was preceded by a broad consultation process in 2021. It strongly supports that the Strategy is not only about combating antisemitism, but also about fostering Jewish life. It firmly believes that antisemitism is not only a violation of the law affecting European Jews, but is also a test of the European idea, European coexistence, the rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy. The EESC believes that all Member States have a fundamental obligation to ensure that their citizens have the freedom to hold religious beliefs and practice their religions without fear.
In 2018, the EESC adopted an Opinion on "The Union's budget and the rule of law" (SOC/598) in which it supported the principle of corrective measures regarding Member States that commit serious violations of the rule of law in Europe. In the present Own-Initiative Opinion, the EESC insists on the actual implementation of Regulation (EU) 2020/2092 "on a general regime of conditionality for the protection of the Union budget". The EESC demands the imposition of swift and comprehensive sanctions for breaches of the rule of law which put the Union's budget at risk. It also recalls the importance for Member States to integrate measures to strengthen the rule of law in their recovery programmes. The EESC also supports a stronger role for the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), and civil society in the area.
In this opinion, the EESC recalls that media freedom, including the safety and security of journalists, and media pluralism are cornerstones of liberal democracy. It therefore notes with regrets that the developments within the EU are alarming and calls for urgent steps by Member States and the EU, including through the use of the new general regime of budget conditionality. The EESC welcomes the broad range of reports and initiatives by the European Parliament and the Commission, including the Commission's plan for a "European Media Freedom Act". It also supports measures to increase the safety of journalists and underlines the necessity of a legal ban on Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). The EESC supports the idea of a European Agency to bolster media skills of EU citizens through educational programmes. It also proposes the creation of a fully independent European public service broadcaster.