Saturday 3 October 2015

How should EU fundamental rights and justice crack nuts?

When should the legislator use a sledgehammer to crack a nut (in more senses than one)?
When we advance from the existential importance of fundamental rights to a few lines about the colloquium, I have to admit to a lingering doubt about how intrusive criminal law should become.
I hope that bright thinkers contribute to the cross-border discussion in Europe, since similar problems confront the European and the national level.

Věra Jourová
- It is high time that member states fully implemented EU law to combat racism and xenophobia. I intend to take decisive actions to monitor this implementation and will focus on three points. First of all, member states must firmly and immediately investigate and prosecute racist hatred and violence. Second, I find it disgraceful that Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in only 13 member states. Last but not least, member states must decisively address hate speech, said the EU justice commissioner Věra Jourová in her closing remarks at the Commission's first colloquium on fundamental rights.
Hopefully her openness about the Commission's aims serves the purpose of a wider and improved discussion about the merits of justice policy and criminal law to advance societal aims. Commissioner Jourová promised a number of other actions to counter antisemitism and islamophobia, as well, some more and some less controversial.

Fundamental rights colloquium
Through the web page of the European Commission's first annual fundamental rights colloquium 1-2 October 2015 you can access material, including the thematic discussion notes to steer the discussions. The notes offer you a fairly detailed view of the issues at the colloquium, but worth continued discussion in Europe more widely:
Stepping up action to prevent and combat antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate crimes (Session I.a)
Tackling hate speech in a connected world (Session II.a)
Fostering equality legislation and promoting non-discrimination policies (Session II.b)

As you see, there are quite a number of related but separate issues demanding individual treatment.
You can follow, dig for material or participate under the Twitter hashtag #NoPlace4Hate

Ralf Grahn 

Friday 2 October 2015

Existential importance of fundamental rights

We return to the fundamental rights colloquium I mentioned yesterday, with links to the press release and the fact sheet.
- The topic is of, I would almost say, existential importance to the future of Europe, said the first vice-president Frans Timmmermans in his forceful opening of the European Commission's first annual colloquium on fundamental rights (press release and video).
- Europe is going through a period of crisis and turmoil, which is challenging the very values on which it was built. It is challenging the very fabric of European society and therefore the very fabric of European cooperation. The rise of antisemitism, the rise of Islamophobia, each in their own way are symptoms, Timmermans stated.

You can follow the livestream, when the colloquium continues today, 2 October 2015, at 9 am local time, but you have to go no farther than to the live Twitter stream under #NoPlace4Hate to see the challenge, with various fundamentalists at loggerheads over past atrocities and current animosity.

Ralf Grahn

Thursday 1 October 2015

EU fundamental rights: colloquium, Charter, strategy and report

In this blog post I am going to refer briefly to four pillars of fundamental rights in the European Union: the first annual colloquium, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the Commission's strategy for effective implementation, and the latest annual report.

EU colloquium on fundamental rights
The European Commission's has dedicated its first annual colloquium on fundamental rights, 1 to 2 October 2015, to the fight against anti-semitic and anti-muslim discrimination, hate crimes and hate speech.
The aim is to foster a culture of inclusive tolerance and respect in the European Union.

EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
All EU members have undertaken to secure to everyone the rights and freedoms defined in the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), and to abide by the final judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in any case to which they are parties.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union became legally binding when the Lisbon Treaty entered into force.
The Charter applies to institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the EU, but to the member states only when they implement EU law.

Fundamental rights strategy
Because of the legally binding character of the Charter, the EU Commission published a strategy in 2010 (press release). More exactly, this communication is called:
The strategy presents the Commission's activities to prevent breaches of and promote adherence to fundamental rights, among the EU institutions, as well as in the member states when applying EU law.
In addition, the Commission promised an annual report on the application of the Charter, with two objectives stated:
to take stock of progress in a transparent, continuous and consistent manner. It will identify what has been done and what remains to be done for the effective application of the Charter;
to offer an opportunity for an annual exchange of views with the European Parliament and the Council.

2014 report on the application of the Charter
The latest annual report was published 8 May 2015 (press release). Here you can find the different language versions for:
but the accompanying SWD only in English
In English you are also offered the luxury version consisting of a 'printed' booklet containing the report, the much more detailed staff working document and the Charter text (185 pages; 5 MB).

Ralf Grahn