The latest report assessing fundamental rights in the EU puts forward an array of recommendations on how to tackle numerous problems across the member states.
On Monday, the Civil Liberties Committee voted on the draft report on the state of fundamental rights in the EU in 2022 and 2023. The text was approved with 35 votes for, six against, and one abstention.
Rule of law and access to justice
MEPs call for justice with regard to the killing of journalists and for a swift agreement on the anti-SLAPP directive, as well as other legislative and political initiatives to protect media freedom. They reiterate their concern regarding the use of spyware, calling for the industry to be regulated strictly, and on EU countries, in particular Greece, Hungary, Poland, Spain, and Cyprus, to follow the Parliament’s recommendations.
The draft report tackles the issue of corruption, referring to cases in the member states and Parliament itself, and asks for zero tolerance across the board and the establishment of an independent ethics body for the EU institutions. It highlights that serious concerns remain as to the rule of law and judicial independence in several EU countries, and calls for an EU strategy that will build on examples from EU foreign policy to protect human rights defenders within Europe. It also supports the freezing of EU funding where appropriate, strongly deplores the systematic scapegoating of LGBTQI+ community by the Hungarian authorities, and reiterates its call for a comprehensive EU values mechanism.
MEPs express deep concern about increasing threats to the freedoms of association, speech and assembly, and condemn the use of violent intervention by law enforcement during peaceful protests, as well as cases of discretionary mass arrests. They emphasise the threat that disinformation poses, underscoring that artistic freedom must be guaranteed. The draft text stresses that national regulatory authorities must be independent and calls for the adoption of a strong European Media Freedom Act.
MEPs condemn the rise in religion-based and racist incidents, deplore that relevant crimes are often not reported, and regret that not all member states have fully transposed the framework decision on racism and xenophobia. They are concerned by the increasing number of police violence against Romani persons and call on the member states to ensure their adequate access to justice. They also strongly condemn the widespread fundamental rights violations towards migrants, including refugees, and express concern about some member states codifying the use of pushbacks into their national law.
Equality and dignity
The draft report recalls that gender-based violence is highly prevalent in all EU countries and strongly condemns the rapid backsliding on women’s and LGBTIQ+ rights in several member states, including the denial of access to safe and legal abortion in Poland. It calls for the swift conclusion of the negotiations for a directive to combat violence against women and domestic violence and stresses the problem of intersectional discrimination, especially for women with disabilities. It further stresses that children’s right to the recognition of parenthood is universal and includes same-sex couples, welcoming the Commission’s relevant proposal. Concerning digitalisation, MEPs highlight the need to pay close attention to discriminatory biases introduced into new technologies, and call on the Commission and the member states to tackle the gender and diversity gap in the ICT and STEM sectors.
The draft report also includes an array of assessments and recommendations on social, economic, and environmental rights (e.g. poverty and social exclusion, digital poverty), as well as institutional safeguards (including establishing the Fundamental Rights Agency as an independent human rights authority).
“Fundamental rights violations are widespread in EU member states. Times of crises are like a litmus test in this regard, as the respect for fundamental rights cannot depend on favourable economic and societal conditions. They are not optional; they are the essence of our societies and a core founding value of the EU,” commented the rapporteur Katarina Barley (S&D, Germany).
Parliament will debate and vote on the report during the upcoming December plenary.