EU Fundamental Rights Agency says efforts to achieve equality and fight discrimination must step up
The EU Fundamental Rights Agency has released "Fundamental Rights: Challenges and Achievements in 2010", its pivotal annual report mapping the progress achieved by the EU during 2010 toward ensuring the rights guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights through developments in legal regulations, policies, and other processes. The report was presented at the European Parliament in Brussels today. It not only highlights existing obstacles in the area of human rights protections and many areas of policy, but also promising processes underway. Some of the main challenges in 2010 concerned asylum, protection of personal information, and members of the Romani minority.
Morten Kjaerum, director of FRA, said: "Even though the Agency has gathered numerous examples of promising processes underway in the Member States, there is stiill a way to go before the real situation in practice will fulfill the norms guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Among the main challenges in the area of fundamental rights in 2010 were obstacles to accessing justice, a high level of discrimination, and violence against children. The EU and its Member States also must confront the marginalization of Romani people, inadequate conditions for asylum-seekers, especially on the EU's peripheral borders, and threats to the protection of personal information."
Asylum and migration
In 2010 an exceptional situation occurred in the area of fundamental rights at the Greek-Turkish territorial border, where 90 % of illegal border crossings into the EU took place. Greek authorities noted significant problems with ensuring that reception conditions met fundamental rights standards and in ensuring that migrants in need of protection received a fair opportunity to request asylum. The European Court for Human Rights found that the conditions in which migrants were detained in Greece violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.
EU Member States exposed to intense migration will have problems fulfilling their fundamental rights obligations unless all of them share responsibilty through the common European asylum system. This system is to be completed by 2012 and will require significant progress to be made during 2011.
Romani people experience the lowest employment levels, poor housing conditions, obstacles in access to health care and segregation in education systems. This prevents them from achieving a standard of living comparable to that of other EU residents as commonly measured. Efforts must be intensified at EU and domestic level with the aim of achieving equality and fighting against discrimination. Through collecting data, performing research, and providing expert experience, FRA is assisting the European Commission and the Member States in evaluating the impact of their policies designed to support Romani inclusion. The report presents many suggestions for how to successfully conduct the integration of Romani communities, for example, by ensuring full enforcement of the EU Race Equality Directive with the aim of fighting discrimination in employment and access to services.
Protection of personal information
Events in 2010 warn us that there is an ongoing need to ensure equilibrium between the opportunities afforded by new technologies for engaging in freedom of speech, cultural and social life, and freedom of movement, and the potential threat these technologies pose to other rights. For example, the Google Street View application drew the attention of legislators and regulatory authorities in Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Spain due to the possible threat it represents to the protection of privacy and personal information.
The EU Data Retention Directive raised the alarm in several Member States as it establishes an obligation for telephone and internet companies to gather data on all of their customers' communications. The Constitutional Courts of Germany and Romania have banned the use of domestic legal regulations implementing the directive and told the Commission they are subjecting them to review.