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Mixed progress on fundamental rights - 20/06/2011

Statue of woman holding scales of justice in front of EU flag © EU

Marginalised Roma, the poor treatment of asylum seekers and threats to data protection - three challenges the EU must solve in upholding fundamental rights.

The EU's charter of fundamental rights enshrines the common values of its citizens - respect for human dignity, equality, solidarity, democracy and the rule of law.

But progress on living up to these universal values in practice has been mixed, says the EU's fundamental rights agency. Its annual review of the charter's application calls on the EU to address three major areas: the treatment of asylum seekers, the social exclusion of the Roma, and personal data protection.

Asylum and migration

Some EU countries facing sudden inflows of irregular migrants in 2010 were unable to cope, leading to violations of the fundamental rights of those detained. A proposed shared approach to asylum seekers would ensure adequate support for countries particularly exposed to immigration flows.

Roma

The EU must step up efforts to combat discrimination against the Roma, who continue to experience lower levels of employment, poor housing conditions, barriers to healthcare and segregation in education systems.

Data protection

Several countries have opposed the EU's data retention law, saying it violates personal privacy rights. The law requires phone and Internet companies to collect data about their customers' communications. A review of the law is under way.

Other breaches of fundamental rights include unequal access to legal systems for certain citizens, ongoing high levels of discrimination and child rights violations in various countries.

Achievements

Progress has been made in ensuring all EU institutions, bodies and agencies comply with the charter. More emphasis is being placed on the rights of victims, especially children.

Since the EU is now part of the UN convention on persons with disabilities, all new laws must reflect their rights. The EU is also set to join the European convention on human rights.

Another advance is the designation by all countries of national bodies to provide support and advice to victims of discrimination.

The fundamental rights agency also highlighted the benefits of the EU's citizen's initiative, which allows public petitions and strengthens participatory democracy.

More on fundamental rights

EU Agency for Fundamental Rights

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