The EU should amplify the voice of those standing up for rights and freedoms and involve them more closely in its work to safeguard the rule of law
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.
An EESC visit to Poland finds the country increasingly divided and its civil society hampered in the exercise of fundamental freedoms
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.
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
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.
For democracy to flourish, free media and civil society must be able to participate in an open debate, free from malign interference, and in an environment where facts are distinguished from fiction.
The hearing will feed into the EESC Opinion on the Democracy Action Plan which lays the ground for the adoption of measures concerning the promotion of free and fair elections (including democratic engagement beyond elections), the strengthening of media freedom, and the countering of disinformation.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) organised a public hearing on "The rule of law and its impact on economic growth" on Tuesday, 8 September 2020, from 2:30 p.m.
The event brought together a wide range of civil society organisations to discuss the economic importance of the rule of law and other fundamendal values of the EU, based on the findings and recommendations of an EESC own-initiative opinion.
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.