FRA weekly 1-8 February

  1. WHAT’S NEW
    1. EU fundamental values, immigration and integration: a shared responsibility
    2. FRA reaffirms its strong ties with the Council of Europe
    3. University law delegation visits FRA
    4. FRA hosts expert meeting on its Fundamental Rights Survey
    5. Conference addresses transfer of prisoners between EU Member States
    6. European Court of Human Rights judge visits FRA
    7. Dutch Presidency event promotes decent work
    8. Data protection reform promises greater trust and protection
    9. Antisemitism continues unabated in the European Union and its Member States
    10. FRA publishes first monthly update on fundamental rights and migration
  1. FEEDBACK FROM RECENT ACTIVITIES
    1. Fundamental Rights Forum Advisory Board gives guidance
    2. National Roma contact points meeting
    3. Experts call for more fundamental rights media training
    4. European Parliament launches Anti-racism and Diversity Intergroup
    5. FRA Director engages with the European Parliament
    6. NGOs and FRA hold wide-ranging discussions on working together to protect fundamental rights
    7. FRA’s criminal record information exchange opinion helps shape EU proposals
    8. FRA’s popular asylum handbook now available in more languages

Please find below the latest information.

1.      WHAT’S NEW

a. EU fundamental values, immigration and integration: a shared responsibility

The FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty will take part in a panel debate during a high-level seminar on ‘EU fundamental values, immigration and integration: a shared responsibility’ in Strasbourg on 2 February. He will be joined on the panel by Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights. This Dutch Presidency event aims to address the shared responsibility of EU institutions, member states, European society and migrants for upholding our common values in the context of the migration crisis. Other discussion topics include increasing intolerance and long-term issues around social inclusion and social cohesion (Contact: Gabriel Toggenburg).

b. FRA reaffirms its strong ties with the Council of Europe

The FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty will pay his first official visit to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg from 2 to 3 February to introduce himself and his vision for the Agency’s future. While there, he will also explore common areas of interest and new lines of action in the context of new challenges in the international arena. During the visit, he will meet the CoE Secretary General, the Commissioner for Human Rights, the President of the European Court of Human Rights, the new President of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, as well as various directors general and directors of the CoE. The FRA Director will also meet the 28 Heads of EU Permanent Representations to the CoE and the Head of the EU Delegation to the CoE. The previous FRA Director last visited the CoE on 22 January 2015 (Contact: Alina Jalea).

c. University law delegation visits FRA

On 3 February, professors and students from the University of Hagen’s legal faculty in Germany will visit FRA. It will be an opportunity for them to get better acquainted with FRA and its work, and hold a discussion on fundamental rights protection in Europe (Contact: Vasco Malta).

d. FRA hosts expert meeting on its Fundamental Rights Survey

FRA will hold an expert meeting on 4-5 February on its Fundamental Rights Survey. The experts will discuss mixed-mode survey methods which involves collecting data in different ways such as personal interviews, telephone interviews or questionnaires that respondents complete themselves either on paper or online. The meeting participants include distinguished survey researchers and practitioners who have applied mixed-mode survey methods in various EU Member States and the USA. The discussions will look into the feasibility of applying different mixed-mode survey designs in the Fundamental Rights Survey and the extent to which adopting a mixed-mode approach could contribute to better coverage of the survey’s target population in a cost-effective way. (Contact: Sami Nevala / David Reichel).

e. Conference addresses transfer of prisoners between EU Member States

The UK’s National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and the EU-funded STEPS2project has invited FRA to take part in a conference entitled ‘Support for Transfer of European Prison Sentences towards Resettlement’. The event takes place from 4 to 5 February in Bucharest. FRA will feed into the discussions drawing on its research into thepractices resulting from EU laws on the cross-border transfer of people who have been sentenced or are awaiting trial (Contact: Jonas Grimheden).

f. European Court of Human Rights judge visits FRA

Prof. Julia Laffranque, a judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), will give a presentation to FRA staff on the Court’s work and issues of fundamental rights on 5 February. Following her presentation she will also be available for a question and answer session (Contact: Maria Amor Martín Estébanez).

g. Dutch Presidency event promotes decent work

FRA will present the findings from its severe labour exploitation report at a two-day conference which focuses on ‘Decent Work’ and labour mobility in Amsterdam from 8 to 9 February. This thematic Dutch Presidency event is being organised by the Social Affairs and Employment Ministry of The Netherlands. The central themes of the conference are promoting decent work on the European labour market by better compliance with and enforcement of existing regulations, with a focus on the situation of posted workers. The objective is to bring together labour inspectorates, policy makers and other authorities who are responsible for the supervision of and compliance with decent work regulations. FRA will present its research findings as well as some of the best practices and experiences that emerged during its work in this area. (Contact: Alice Hamilton).

h. Data protection reform promises greater trust and protection

The December agreement between EU bodies on the reform of data protection rules across the EU heralds a new era for the fundamental right to data protection for individuals across the region. Marking the 10th European Data Protection day on 28 January, FRA looks forward to the stronger protection and safeguards that the rules will provide (Contact: Mario Oetheimer).

i. Antisemitism continues unabated in the European Union and its Member States

On International Holocaust Remembrance day on 27 January, FRA honoured the memory of the victims and renewed its calls for the EU and its Member States to increase their efforts to combat antisemitism, a phenomenon that shows no sign of waning. Indeed, terrorist attacks in Belgium, France and Denmark, widespread antisemitic cyberhate and continued verbal and physical abuse of Jews or their property serve as a sad reminder that Jewish people in the EU continue to face antisemitism to this day.

j. FRA publishes first monthly update on fundamental rights and migration

As refugees, asylum seekers and migrants continue to risk their lives to reach the EU, FRA will be publishing a monthly overview of the fundamental rights situation in the Member States that have seen the greatest numbers arriving in or passing through their territory.

  1. FEEDBACK FROM RECENT ACTIVITIES

a. Fundamental Rights Forum Advisory Board gives guidance

The Advisory Board of the Fundamental Rights Forum recently met to provide feedback on Forum’s design, concept, workshops and suggested speakers. FRA first met with EU-level Board members in Brussels on 22 January and then Vienna-based members on 27 January. The Advisory Board has representatives from: the Dutch, Slovak and Maltese Presidencies of the EU; European Parliament; European Commission; Council of Europe; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; European Network of National Human Rights Institution and Bodies; the EEA and the Norway Grants; Austrian government; City of Vienna; Representation of the European Parliament and European Commission, Vienna; Ashoka Foundation; University of Vienna; Institute for Human Sciences; FRA’s Fundamental Rights Platform (FRA’s platform for civil society); and FRA’s Management Board (Contact: Eva Sobotka).

b. National Roma contact points meeting

FRA took part in the meeting of the national Roma contact points (NRCPs) organised by the European Commission in Brussels on 28-29 January. The meeting focused on the indicators framework for collecting information on Roma inclusion measures which reflects the standards set by the EU Council Recommendation for effective Roma integration. During the meeting, NRCPs discussed the first results of completing the template, the process indicators that can be populated with the data, as well as how they can be applied for the annual reporting to the European Commission as required by the EU Council Recommendation (Contact: Andrey Ivanov / Massimo Toschi).

c. Experts call for more fundamental rights media training

Media experts underlined the need to strengthen rights awareness and human rights reporting by media professionals during a meeting at FRA on 26-27 January. The meeting aimed to discuss how best to jointly create a toolkit to help raise awareness among online, print and audiovisual media professionals about fundamental rights to avoid unintentional bias that reinforce stereotypes. The future toolkit will be based on the successful ‘Media Diversity Toolkit’, co-produced by FRA and the European Broadcasting Union in 2008. Approximately 1,000 media professionals including press officers from national ministries were trained using the previous toolkit. During the meeting, FRA collected feedback on how the first toolkit was developed and used as the foundation for a wider fundamental rights toolkit for the media that looks beyond the focus of diversity and minorities of the original toolkit. There was broad agreement on the need for an enhanced scope to cover fundamental rights more widely drawing on a wider range of journalists given the convergence of so many media channels. Participants also reiterated the need for a modern up-to-date fundamental rights toolkit to contribute to the professional development of media professionals that would help them to factually report about fundamental rights without using biased language and to link issues they report on to fundamental rights. The meeting brought together media and diversity trainers, broadcast and visual journalists, as well as representatives of associations for journalists and viewers interests (Contact: Aydan Iyigüngör / Tara Morris).

d. European Parliament launches Anti-racism and Diversity Intergroup

The FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty joined panel discussions to mark the launch of the European Parliament’s Anti-racism and Diversity Intergroup on 26 January in Brussels. Drawing on the Agency’s work, he spoke about monitoring, combating racism and promoting diversity in the European Union, and highlighted the challenges the EU still faces in this area. He also outlined how FRA will continue to support efforts to tackle racism and promote diversity, mentioning in particular its second EU-wide survey of minorities and their experiences of discrimination which it is carrying out this year (Contact: John Kellock).

e. FRA Director engages with the European Parliament

The FRA Director, Michael O’Flaherty, addressed Members of the European Parliament in Brussels from 25-26 January for the first time in his capacity as the Agency’s head. It was a valuable opportunity to engage directly with MEPs to hear about their fundamental rights concerns and for them to keep abreast about FRA’s recent and ongoing work (Contact: Sara Sighinolfi / Dennis Van der Veur).

f. NGOs and FRA hold wide-ranging discussions on working together to protect fundamental rights

The FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty met with over 30 representatives from Brussels-based umbrella NGOs on 25 January. These included members of Social Platform, theHuman Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN) and the European Asylum and Migration Platform (EPAM). The discussion focused on how FRA and civil society could support each other in protecting fundamental rights in the EU. Civil society organisations generally praised FRA for the quality and relevance of its work. Some of the topics discussed included: the need for an EU internal human rights strategy; the equal treatment directive; the need to vigilantly watch human rights in the refugee crisis, particularly for vulnerable groups; and how to make use of sustainable development goals to create momentum for human rights inside the EU (Contact: Waltraud Heller).

g. FRA’s criminal record information exchange opinion helps shape EU proposals

On 19 January, the European Commission proposed a directive enhancing the existing European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) that allows information on criminal sentences to be exchanged. ECRIS should contain a new mechanism applicable only to third-country nationals, based on comparing fingerprints to ensure their unambiguous identification. The proposal addresses to a large extent the safeguards promoted in the FRA opinion of 4 December 2015. This includes facilitating access to criminal record information for those included in the system and measures to eliminate false matches. In relation to the different treatment of EU and third-country nationals, it also highlights the principle of equality before the law. Some issues raised by FRA have been referred to in an explanatory memorandum but not addressed. These have been left to the discretion of EU Member States. Examples include the possible adverse effects in the field of migration and asylum or considering the impact on third-country national children (Contact: Zoe Kardasiadou / Michal Nespor).

h. FRA’s popular asylum handbook now available in more languages

The handbook on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration published together by FRA and the European Court of Human Rights is now available also in Danish, Finnish, Dutch as well as Turkish. The handbook – which is now available in 23 languages – presents European Union legislation and the body of case law by the two European courts in an accessible way. The Turkish language version of the handbook was produced following a request from the EU Borders Agency, Frontex, and aims to assist those actors who are engaged in activities to address the current migration situation. The handbook has been downloaded over 82,000 times since its publication in 2013 (Contact: Adriano Silvestri).

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