The conference will cover developments in the EU in the area of fundamental rights and the rule of law in 2020-2021. It will offer a space for dialogue amongst stakeholders, in particular the ones which contributed to country visits led by the EESC Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law (FRRL) Group in 2020-2021 and to the first two European Commission Rule of Law Reports published in 2020 and 2021. The discussions during the day, including in parallel breakout sessions, will focus on the four key themes which structure the European Rule of Law Mechanism: Justice, Media, Corruption, Checks and balances.
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To improve the implementation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights it is necessary to empower civil society organisations, rights defenders and justice practitioners, and strengthen people’s awareness of their rights under the Charter. CSOs and social partners are operating at grassroots levels and can help spread awareness and foster implementation. Moreover, the social partners have a special role in contributing to the implementation and defence of socio-economic fundamental rights.
The hearing will build on the reflection launched by the FRRL Group at its first hearing on COVID-19 in December 2020. While the first hearing focused on COVID-19's impact on employers, workers and CSOs and the EU response, the second will look at the world after.
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has proved to be an endurance test for human and social rights, democratic values, the rule of law and economic resilience in the EU. While navigating stormy waters, organised civil society is playing a key role in coping with the countless pandemic-related challenges at European, national, regional and local level.
The input session will bring together stakeholders and EESC Members to discuss fundamental rights, democracy and rule of law aspects of the COVID-19 crisis.
A first session will cover the ongoing impact of the crisis on the fundamental rights of employers, workers and civil society organisations. A second session will discuss how fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law can play a key role in the design of a crisis exit strategy and in a post-COVID-19 recovery phase.
In July 2019, the European Commission published a Communication entitled 'Strengthening the rule of law within the Union – A blueprint for action', which details actions on the promotion, prevention, and response aspects. The EESC, on its side, made proposals in a series of key Opinions over the past years, and has set up a transversal Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law (FFRL) in 2018. The FRRL Group leads country visits and seeks to provide a forum for European CSOs to share their assessment on the state of fundamental rights, democracy and rule of law in the Member States.
The EESC Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law will hold a public hearing with a large audience of Polish civil society stakeholders to discuss the topics of freedom of assembly and freedom of association on 5 December in Warsaw, Poland.