Members of the European Parliament develop a proposal for a Fundamental Rights Pact

Sophie in’t Veld, a member of the European Parliament’s committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs is authoring a report on ‘Establishment of an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights’. Ms In’t de Veld proposes that such a mechanism should be legally binding; a ‘Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Pact’ between citizens, governments, and EU institutions’ that can tackle the EU’s failure to ensure human rights are respected within the Union. In theory, the EU is allowed to intervene when a Member State seriously breaches the Union’s founding value of respect for human rights (Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union). In practice, it has never been activated because governments fear that if they evoke it against one state, it could be used against them at another time.

The report is being developed  in cooperation with other Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who have  contributed working documents on the various different elements of a ‘Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Pact’ (see below).

Among the interesting ideas discussed in the working documents is Monika Flašíková-Beňová MEP’s proposal for a ‘Democracy Scoreboard’ tool. Such a scoreboard would be made up of existing instruments, to evaluate, monitor and report on Member States’ compliance with democracy and human rights within the EU. It would be able to address the ‘double standard’ of Member States being expected to comply with human rights obligations outside the EU with no examination of whether they are respecting the same rights within the Union. Furthermore, it would complement the existing ‘Justice Scoreboard’, and contribute to the annual cycle of economic governance, known as the European Semester process. There is also a proposal to extend the mandate of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights so that it not only has a leading expert function, but also a monitoring role. Freezing a Member States’ EU funding is one example of a sanction when a state seriously breaches EU human rights obligations.

The working documents also include an interesting question raised by Ulrike Lunacek MEP: how can the EU create a mechanism for the monitoring of fundamental rights compliance while at the same time taking into account the risk that it might provoke anti-EU sentiments in Member States singled out for rights violations? Barbara Spinelli MEP highlights that, in order to enhance the protection of rights, the EU has to finally accede to the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter (which it unfortunately is still far away from doing). Timothy Kirkhope MEP suggests the establishment of an inter-institutional impact assessment working group to create coherence between the EU institutions, and joint understanding of what impact specific legislation has on rights. György Schöpflin MEP, a member of the parliament’s committee on Constitutional Affairs develops the idea of an annual pan-EU dialogue and debate between the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council and civil society. He puts forward the European Semester as a positive example of how to actively involve Member States.

Social Platform will join other civil society organisations to meet Ms in’t de Veld in early April to give our initial support to the report as it aims to strengthen human rights within the EU, which is one of the main aims of our proposal for an EU Internal Strategy to Promote Human Rights. I will continue to keep members and our readers up-to-date on this important work by the Parliament!

See below the links to the working documents and designated shadow rapporteurs: