- What about Fundamental Rights?

Fundamental Rights are rights that are recognised and guaranteed by international legal documents. Fundamental rights set out minimum standards to ensure that everybody is treated with dignity, regardless of status, sex, age, race or any other factor. Although the EU member states have a long tradition of promoting fundamental rights, and the EU itself is built on these values, they only became legally binding 50 years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome.

- Are Fundamental Rights at the heart of the European Project?

The European project was started in the aftermath of the Second World War with the aim of maintaining peace in Europe. Although the Council of Europe developed a unique European human rights protection system through the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which interprets the European Convention of Human Rights, the European Union remained mainly an economic integration dominated by the common market. However, although the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993 extended the community method to other important policy areas, (such as public health which motivated the creation of EPHA), the Human Rights dimension of the EU remained underdeveloped.

- The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

Recognising the importance of Fundamental Rights, the European Convention (1999-2000) drafted the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union which was proclaimed on 7 December 2000 by the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission. However it only became legally binding after the coming into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009.

The Charter lists the rights that the EU Institutions and member states must respect when they develop and implement EU law and policy. The rights outlined in the Charter are divided into six groups (Dignity, Freedoms, Equality, Solidarity, Citizens’ rights, Justice).

- Is the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) the Guardian of the EU Charter?

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) was set up by the Council Regulation (EC) No 168/2007 as an independent EU Agency to monitor the promotion of fundamental rights. Although it can assist the EU by collecting and analysing "objective, reliable and comparable information and data", its mandate is clearly restricted by the founding regulation: "assistance and expertise on fundamental rights to the relevant authorities of the Community and its member states."

So, instead of being a guardian, the FRA’s role can be considered more as a facilitator, bringing the fundamental rights based approach into the EU decision making procedures.

- The Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) is the bridge between civil society and the FRA

The Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) meeting is the flagship event of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). The 6th FRP meeting on 24-26 April in Vienna brought together over 200 civil society organisations working on a variety of fundamental rights issues across the European Union

Snapshot on the Programme of the 6th Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) meeting

The keynote speaker was MEP Kinga Göncz (S&D, HU), vice chair of the LIBE committee about the Rights and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020).

As regards Session I (25 April), the panel debate about the proposal for a directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, age or sexual orientation (equal treatment directive - COM(2008)426 of July 2, 2008) explored the possibility of re-launching the blocked directive with the presence of the rapporteur MEP Raül Romeva i Rueda (ES, the Greens)and Mr. O’Brian, Chair of the Council Working Party.

Concerning session II (26 April) about victims of hate crime: challenges and promising practices for victim support, this panel debate highlighted some of the promising practices in the field and invited participants to explore together, how national and EU institutions can best support the efforts of civil society in providing help to victims of hate crime.

The ’Harvesting letter’ of the 6th FRP meeting compiled by FRA together with members of the FRP Advisory Panel gives an overview about the main outcomes of the FRP. Moreover, it indicates the date of the 7th FRP: 10-11 april 2014.

Relevance of the 6th FRP for the public health community

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), as a change agent advocating for better health, was recognised as participant of the FRP due to its commitment, expertise, proven experience and capacity with regard to the protection and promotion of fundamental rights.

EPHA developed the European Charter for Health Equity, which reaffirms the commitment to the values of well-being, solidarity, social justice, promotion of fundamental rights and gender equity.

EPHA has engaged in many activities for the protection and promotion of fundamental rights among others, in the field of children, Roma minorities, disabled and patients’ right, violence against women, right to water, to clean and safe environment, sexual and reproductive health and rights.

In 2012, the EPHA Annual Conference was dedicated to the issue of the impact of austerity measures on health systems and services in the EU, the consequences of the crisis on population health, inequalities and social justice.

As a first step, EPHA actively participated in the 6th FRP and will make sure in the future by following the Health in All Policies (HIAP) approach that Fundamental Rights will be taken seriously in all decisions affecting our health.

Please contact Zoltán Massay-Kosubek, EPHA Policy coordinator for Policy coherence at zoltan@epha.org

(Photo © Fundamental Rights Agency - Morten Kjaerum, Director on the 6th FRP meeting )

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Last modified on May 3 2013.