The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has recently published its 2013 Annual report. This year’s report is much shorter than previous annual reports reflecting the useful comments the Agency received from its Scientific Committee and the Management Board. Particularly interesting are focus section on strengthening fundamental rights protection within the EU and section on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights before national courts and non-judicial human rights bodies. What is more, the Report argues for “an EU strategic framework on fundamental rights” as “renewed commitment to fundamental rights could be instrumental in ensuring that the EU and its Member States conform to their obligation to “respect the rights [as laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights], observe the principles and promote the application thereof” (p. 10, footnote omitted). What is more, “providing a new internal EU strategic frame‑work would be beneficial to promote “the well‑being of its peoples”, including social progress and social inclusion, “social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child”” (Ibid.). The report and such call are undoubtedly refreshing, however it is yet to be seen if the Member States will heed such calls. Here is the summary of entire reports’s findings :
The EU and its Member States took a variety of important steps in 2013 to protect and promote fundamental rights by assuming new international commitments, revamping legislation and pursuing innovative policies on the ground. Yet, fundamental rights violations seized the spotlight with distressing frequency: would-be migrants drowned off the EU’s coast, unprecedented mass surveillance, racist and extremist-motivated murders, child poverty and Roma deprivation.
In response, the EU completed a series of important legal reforms, particularly in asylum, while Member States worked to transpose the EU Victims’ Directive into national law and pursued their national Roma integration strategies. Still, new laws on the books do not necessarily transform the situation on the ground. Crisis-driven austerity measures raised some fundamental rights concerns. A persisting gap between law and practice troubled a broad spectrum of human rights observers, particularly in asylum policy, Roma integration and child and victims’ rights.
This year’s report also features two new chapters, one on Roma integration following the drawing up of the national Roma integration strategies and a second looking at the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and especially its use before national courts as it approaches its fifth anniversary as a binding document.