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.

  • The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has slammed the EU for its inadequate support and insufficient funding for civil society organisations working in the area of fundamental rights, the rule of law and democracy. With civil society encountering ever more difficulties, the EESC announced that it would monitor the situation of democracy and human rights defenders more closely, both in the EU and in enlargement countries

  • Despite being recognised as a constitutional principle of the EU, participatory democracy in Europe is still largely unstructured, with no formal institutional agreements that would allow citizens and civil society organisations to directly contribute to the development of EU policies


  • With populism and authoritarianism on the rise across Europe, civil society organisations face growing hostility. Battling with financial constraints, smear campaigns, political attacks and legal and administrative obstacles, they urgently need reinforced support on all fronts to be able to play their key role of making our societies more open, more accountable and just.

  • Civil society organisations (CSOs) must be recognised, involved and supported as partners that defend and strengthen European democracy and contribute to a functioning rule of law culture.

  • In its March plenary, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an opinion urging the European Institutions to address the fragmented implementation of foreign policy sanctions across Member States. The EESC is concerned about the inconsistency in standards and in the application of sanctions in national legislation, and is calling for immediate action to protect humanitarian aid and journalists in sanctioned regimes.

  • Conference on 'Civil society organisations defending and strengthening European democracy' organised by the EESC's Civil Society Organisations' Group

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    On 23 March, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held a plenary debate and adopted a resolution entitled "United for Democracy" with concrete proposals to strengthen democracies and democratic values across the European Union. Policymakers, experts, and organised civil society representatives agreed that civic education, better funding to social partners and a focus on the local dimension, are key to democracy in Europe.

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    The EESC Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law Group held a public hearing on protecting women's sexual and reproductive health and rights. Participants in the debate called for free health services, access to contraception, more inclusive policies, and reproductive and sexual education. This debate was organised in collaboration with the EESC Equality Group as part of a series of EESC events following up on the European Parliament's Gender Equality Week initiative.

  • EESC plenary debate linked to the adoption of the opinions SOC/726 on Combatting violence against women and SOC/731 on Gender equality, with Christina Fabre, Team leader on gender-based violence, European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).

  • "The rule of law: why should we care?" was the thought-provoking question put to participants in a hearing jointly organised by the EESC Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law Group and the International Bar Association (IBA) on 6 July 2022 in Bratislava, Slovakia.