COVID-19 underlines importance of strong fundamental rights protection

Date: 25th June 2020
Category: Basic Health and Welfare, Civil Rights and Freedoms, Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities, Family Environment and Alternative Care

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Fundamental Rights Agency’s Fundamental Rights Report 2020 report finds that growing intolerance and attacks on people’s fundamental rights continue to erode the considerable progress of protecting and promoting the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) aims to safeguard the rights and freedoms enshrined in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights by developing policy makers’ understanding of how to do more for their citizens and raise rights awareness at the EU, national and local level.

FRA’s Fundamental Rights Report 2020 reviews main developments of human rights in 2019, identifying both achievements and areas of concern. The focus section of the report explores how to unlock the full potential of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, highlighting how the Charter has gained visibility and sparked a new fundamental rights culture at EU level. However, despite it being legally binding for 10 years, government and parliament use of the Charter remains low. For instance, there is little indication of anyone regularly scrutinising national legislation that transposes EU law for compatibility with the Charter.

This insight from FRA hopes to encourage others, including governments, to use the Charter and give it full force so that it can truly protect and promote people’s rights.

The report’s remaining chapters review the main developments of human rights in 2019, concerning: equality and non-discrimination; racism, xenophobia and related intolerance; Roma equality and inclusion; asylum, borders and migration; information society, privacy and data protection; rights of the child; access to justice; and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. With supporting evidence, the Report also includes FRA’s opinions on these developments and offers evidence-based recommendations for consideration by EU bodies and national governments.

Some of the key issues identified in the Fundamental Rights Report 2020 include:

  1. Respecting fundamental rights at borders remained one of the top human rights challenges in the EU- as migrants have and continue to die at sea, face violence and pushback at land borders and some Member States threatening humanitarian rescue boats. In other Member States, migrants continued to experience overcrowding and homelessness. Child detention has also increased, including a rise in unaccompanied children who were without guardians to aid them.
  • Member States urgently need to stop such fundamental rights abuses and develop effective measures to protect the rights of children, particularly unaccompanied children.
  1. Child poverty rates in the EU improved slightly. However, one in four children remain at risk of poverty- this means that children still go to bed hungry and live in poor conditions with their health and education suffering. Children with foreign parents fare worse with four in 10 children at risk of poverty and in single-parent households, one in three children are also at risk.
  • The EU should adopt its Child Guarantee initiative with clear targets and sufficient funding to reduce child poverty.
  1. Governments and companies are rushing to embrace the potential benefits of Artificial Intelligence- ethics and fundamental rights considerations are beginning to take shape as the European Commission and Council of Europe formulate guidelines and law.
  • The EU and its Member States should ensure future regulations incorporate thorough and transparent fundamental rights impact assessments of the use of artificial intelligence, coupled with independent supervisory bodies.

Read the Fundamental Rights 2020 report here.

Read the Fundamental Rights 2020 press report here.

Read the focus chapter about unlocking the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, ten years on here.

Read the FRA’s opinions here.