New report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
All EU funds must be spent in a way that respect fundamental rights. The EU invests billions of euros in creating jobs, economic growth, sustainable development and improving people’s lives. To prevent funds from being spent in ways that violate people’s fundamental rights, the EU strengthened the conditions how funds can be spent in 2021.
A new report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights looks at how the newly introduced conditions related to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) can be upheld in practice. It analyses the potential role of national human rights institutions, ombudsperson institutions and equality bodies. These safeguards can advance compliance with fundamental rights.
The report is based on research in 12 Member States: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia. FRA used desk research, national roundtables and semi-structured interviews with relevant stakeholders in 2022 and 2023. The report relies on activities of the project Supporting National Human Rights Institutions in monitoring fundamental rights and the fundamental rights aspects of the rule of law funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Regional Cooperation.
The enabling conditions contained in the Common Provisions Regulation 21–27 may help to prevent operations that are not in full compliance with the Charter and the CRPD from being funded in the first place. This requires Member States to take measures promised in their Charter and CRPD arrangements. Measures include improved fundamental rights training, raising the awareness of all key players in the cycle and ensuring the availability of practical tools to check Charter and CRPD compliance. Action is particularly required at local and regional levels.
There are three main findings related to participation, capacity and resources, and the complaints mechanism.
- To make better use of the expertise, data and findings of independent fundamental rights bodies and CSOs specialising in fundamental rights, their involvement needs to be greater and more meaningful, including at the initial stages of the funding cycle. Although many of these actors were involved in the previous programming period, greater efforts are needed to ensure that their participation is encouraged, meaningful and facilitated.
- It is important that all actors involved, including independent fundamental rights bodies and specialised fundamental rights CSOs, are provided with the necessary extra human, financial and technical resources for this new role.
- Lessons need to be learned from evaluations and complaints procedures to ensure that the enabling conditions on the Charter and the CRPD make a real difference in the activities and operations that the EU is funding. Member States need to ensure that their complaints procedures are sufficiently effective to identify any violations that occur and deal with them effectively.