The European Parliament denounces gender violence and discrimination, breaches of rule of law and hate speech in its assessment of fundamental rights in the EU in 2017.

In a non-legislative resolution adopted on Wednesday with 390 votes to 153 and 63 abstentions, MEPs call on EU institutions to effectively assess member states’ respect for rule of law and condemn limitations imposed on freedom of speech, as well as violations against migrants and asylum seekers’ fundamental rights in some EU countries.

Discrimination and violence against women

The text condemns all forms of violence against women and urges member states that have not yet ratified the Istanbul Convention to do so “without delay”. It supports the 2017 demonstrations against the regression of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as the extensive media coverage of sexual harassment cases.

Rule of law

MEPs strongly condemn the actions taken in some EU countries to weaken the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, and denounce the EU institutions’ “ineffectiveness in putting an end to the serious and persistent breaches” of the European Union’s values. The rule of law must be regularly and impartially assessed based on objective criteria in all the member states, the resolution stresses.

Freedom of speech

The EP denounces the increasing restrictions to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in the EU, and highlights that whistleblowing is crucial for investigative journalism and press freedom. It also expresses its deep concern over the threats, pressures and risks journalists face in the EU.

Hate speech and migration

MEPs warn that hate speech is being trivialised and strongly condemn the rise of far-right movements. They also underline the need to combat the rise of antisemitism and islamophobia, as well as the persistent discrimination and stigmatisation against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people (LGBTI) in the EU. Parliament also regrets that in 2017 there was “no major improvement” concerning integration and the fundamental rights of Roma people.

It finally urges Council to put an end to the current impasse on the Dublin Regulation reform. MEPs also encourage national authorities to facilitate the granting of humanitarian visas to those seeking international protection. They point to violations of migrants and asylum seekers’ rights in some EU countries, such as failing to provide migrants with effective access to asylum procedures or to give them clear information on legal remedies following a return decision.

Josep-Maria Terricabras (Greens/EFA, ES), rapporteur for the resolution, said: “The right to media freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were put into question in 2017. These fundamental rights are now under threat in places and countries where we would not have expected it to be the case. Artists and social leaders emerge as the victims of this situation.”

“The fight for fundamental rights in the EU never stops. We have seen some worrying trends in the last few years, with national governments moving backwards on basic democratic principles. In Hungary, the government continues to crack down on anybody that provides a check on their ability to govern unimpeded. We urgently need the European Council to follow up on the Parliament’s decision to launch Article 7 procedures against the Hungarian government. We have also seen attempts by right-wing governments to push back on the rights of LGBTI people and on women’s rights. We must take a stand and protect our basic values. LGBTI people are still far more likely to be victims of bullying, harassment and violence. That is why, today, the Parliament backed our call to criminalise LGBTI conversion therapy across the EU. Member states must combat this type of quackery that belittles and stigmatises LGBTI people,” said S&D Group spokesperson for civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, Birgit Sippel.

“We are disappointed by the attempt of the EPP and other right wing groups to water down aspects of this report on women’s rights. Instead of listening and learning from the #MeToo movement they are attempting to turn the clock backwards and delete the progress we have made in the last decades. Women’s rights are human rights and we will never stop fighting to protect them,” added S&D Group spokesperson for the report Sylvie Guillaume.