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.
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
The Workers' Group is organising a conference in Stockholm on 11/12 May, on the occasion of the Council of the European Union Swedish Presidency.
Registrations for the conference are now closed. We invite you to follow the event via live stream at: https://europa.eu/!bKTWBr
Civil Society Organisations active on fundamental rights, the rule of law, and democracy are confronted with increasing difficulties, from regulatory challenges to financial constraints and concerted attacks on their work and credibility. At the hearing, the EESC intends to engage with CSOs and other relevant stakeholders to identify the main issues they face and propose ways of improving support. The hearing will feed into the opinion, which will have a particular focus on EU funding.
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.