The situation in some Member States has led us to create a strategy for defending the Rule of Law, human rights and the concept of liberal democracy, said José Antonio Moreno Díaz, president of a new group on fundamental rights and the Rule of Law. Fact-finding missions to Poland, Hungary or Romania will be a starting point for the group, established by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) earlier this year and which held its first meeting on 11 June in Brussels.
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 conference on Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law held by the European Economic and Social Committee brought into light serious violations and negative trends in the four areas covered by the European Rule of Law Mechanism (justice, corruption, media, checks and balances). The EESC stressed that civil society is a dynamic actor in defending this fundamental principle of the EU.
In a plenary debate with Reporters without Borders and the European Federation of Journalists, the EESC reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the pluralism and freedom of the media and guaranteeing absolute safety for journalists, amid alarming developments across the EU which have in the past few years claimed several reporters' lives.
The EESC says threats to the rule of law and fundamental rights and the shrinking space for civil society, as described in its report based on visits to several EU countries, may be further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis
The son of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in 2017 while reporting on government corruption, addressed the December plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and said that a European rule of law monitoring mechanism could help defend journalism against all forms of pressure.
Building on its newly published report on the rule-of-law situation in Europe, the EESC conference calls for a mature and structured dialogue between governments and civil society to reverse backsliding on the rule of law in the EU
Over the last years, the EU founding values have been increasingly challenged, making the consensus on which they are based seem more fragile than ever. While the EU has addressed these threats by becoming more active in defence of democracy, fundamental rights, the rule of law, discourses have also risen portraying such action as political battles based on unclear or relative criteria.
Participants in the hearing will discuss how to address this phenomenon, and more generally how to better communicate fundamental rights and the rule of law to the whole population.
The EU has adopted legislation covering various grounds of discrimination in a variety of policy areas, in particular employment, to meet its aim of combating all forms of discrimination. However, gaps still exist as Member States have not yet agreed on a horizontal Directive on non-discrimination outside of the labour market proposed in 2008.
This hearing with the participation of EU institutions and civil society organisations in the framework of the preparation of an EESC own-initiative aims at closing the gaps and identifying ways to improve equality in Europe, including with an Equal Treatment Directive.
In order to prepare its opinion on the Commission proposal for a directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence, the EESC is organising a hybrid public hearing on 21 April 2022 from 9:30 am to 1 pm.
The aim of the event is to gather input from civil society, including social partners and academia as well other EU Institutions and international organisations.
Your participation and input are most welcome!
While Europe and its societies are still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the Conference on the Future of Europe in its closing stages, the EESC will be holding its annual Civil Society Days in March 2022.