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
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 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
Recent developments in the US and some European countries have shown that rights acquired by women are not irreversible. This particularly applies to sexual and reproductive health and rights. These questions are a matter of individual rights but also of public health, as sexual and reproductive health services are an essential part of comprehensive healthcare provision. Societal debates on the questions tend more and more towards polarisation, at the expense of women who can become deprived of their free and informed choice. The hearing will gather the view of civil society on these developments.
The EESC FRRL Group's annual conference will provide a platform for debate of the European Commission's third Report on the Rule of Law (July 2022), which for the first time entails country specific recommendations.
It will gather EESC Members, civil society representatives (including social partners), EU institutions and other stakeholders to discuss the main developments in the EU in the area of fundamental rights and the rule of law over the past year.
On the occasion of the conference, the FRRL Group will issue its second synthesis report covering the visits carried out in 2020-2021.
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.
The conference is a joint European Commission-EESC event to discuss the annual report on the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, issued by the Commission in December 2021.