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 Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law (FRRL) was set up in 2018 as a horizontal body within the EESC, and was tasked with enhancing the contribution of organised civil society in strengthening fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law and responding to the shrinking civic space for civil society organisations.
The End of Mandate Report summarises the main activities led by the FRRL Group between 2018 and 2020.
This publication is the executive summary of the study "Finding a new consensus on European civil society values and their evaluation".
Do civil society organisations in France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Hungary, and Poland share a common understanding of the values of democracy, the rule of law, and solidarity? This research shows that CSOs tend to converge in their definitions of these values, even if they display more diverse interpretations of solidarity than of democracy and the rule of law. It also reveals that CSOs recognise the crucial role that the civil sector plays in promoting these values.
The report highlights trends in Europe based on seven country visits that took place in 2018-2019 in Romania, Poland, Hungary, Austria, France, Bulgaria and Italy. It updates the interim report published in November 2019, integrates the main conclusions of the November 2019 conference on ‘Fundamental rights and the rule of law – Trends in the EU from a civil society perspective’, and annexes country reports and observations by the national authorities.
The response to the COVID-19 crisis has had a negative impact on a number of fundamental rights. The unavoidable lockdowns have restricted our freedom of movement and cross-border travel. Freedom of association and assembly have been cut, so have privacy rights through data tracking systems. What has been put in place as a temporary measure cannot be instrumentalised to revert decades-long fights for freedoms and equality. We must get out of this crisis with our democracies – and our European Union – intact.