Tuesday 12 October 2010

EU: Preventing human rights infringements – CEPS proposal

In a research paper from the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on the French Roma affair, the authors made an interesting proposal to strengthen human rights monitoring in the European Union. See:

Sergio Carrera and Anaïs Faure Atger: L’Affaire des Roms - A Challenge to the EU’s Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (CEPS Paper in Liberty and Security in Europe, September 2010; 20 pages).

The researchers demonstrated the weakness and slowness of the existing ‘ex post’ enforcement procedures. In order to prevent further damage, the authors proposed a new mechanism to stop suspected violations (page 17):

The EU should therefore develop a new (preventive) enforcement mechanism that would complement the existing ones (the infringement and the fundamental rights proceedings). This procedure would be primarily destined to ensure that contested national policies and practices falling within the remits of EU law and fundamental rights (and applying exceptions and/or derogations to European rights and freedoms) would be immediately ‘frozen’ while the formal opening of infringement or fundamental rights proceedings would be still be considered and/or under study by the relevant services of the European institutions. For such an ex ante procedure to ensure its full effectiveness, careful attention should be paid at times of ensuring its overall objectivity, impartiality and accountability. It would also be necessary that the opening of the procedure would not only lie in the hands of the Commission, but that the latter could be also launched on the initiative of the European Parliament.

On page 18 Carrera and Faure Atger added some thoughts about this injunction-like freezing procedure, which would build on documented violations of citizens’ rights:

The new freezing enforcement procedure would be activated through the existence of ‘evidence’ provided (for instance) by the European Agency of Fundamental Rights (FRA) along with its Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) of Non-Governmental Organizations, which could be also tasked ‘to alert’ any suspected breaches of EU law and fundamental rights by EU member states. The next step would be the revision by the FRA of the pertinence of such allegations before a formal activation is put to the EU institutions. The existence of this EU-wide network for cooperation and information exchange set to act as the main channel for the FRA to engage civil society would enable an EU-wide coverage of the implementation of EU law in an enlarged EU. They could thus be responsible for informing/alerting if a violation of fundamental rights or EU law is suspected. The involvement of a network of independent experts who can be consulted quickly to present a report in relevant member states should also be another initiative to be considered in the implementation of such a procedure.

I noted this interesting proposal in a blog post yesterday: EU citizenship: France’s Roma expulsions documented by CEPS (11 October 2010).

There have been positive reactions from two Eurobloggers I value.

The writer of The European Citizen blog, Eurocentric (Conor Slowey) commented on my blog post. According to him, giving the European Parliament resolutions more force when it comes to breaching EU citizen rights could be a good step to ensure that EU citizenship rights are more effectively enforced (and in a timely manner).

However, how to improve enforcement caused Eurocentric some concern. Perhaps an independent Citizenship Ombudsman for monitoring citizenship rights across the EU might be a better way to ensure independent action.

In the blog post CEPS Proposes Freezing Enforcement Procedure (11 October 2010), Vihar Georgiev on the European Union Law blog presented a favourable initial reaction to the preventive mechanism.

As part of the Brussels Festival des libertés, the think tank CEPS and the ENACT research project (Enacting European citizenship) arrange a public debate On the margins of European citizenship, on 27 October 2010. This discussion may present an opportunity to address the weakness and lack of timeliness of existing procedures for monitoring the fundamental rights of EU citizens. Hopefully, we will see other reactions to the proposed freezing procedure by then.

Ralf Grahn

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