The Situation of Fundamental Rights in Europe Parliament Hearing

hearing on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU took place on Monday 30th March in the European Parliament, focusing on topical issues like migration in the Mediterranean and the economic crisis. The objective of the hearing was to contribute to the on-going dialogue on the mechanisms and methods to better safeguard the fundamental rights of citizens in the European Union and in particular to discuss the impact of austerity on fundamental rights, as the LIBE Committee commissioned a report on this subject.

The first Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr. Frans Timmermans gave a brief speech on how the EU needs to be seen as an institution that doesn't constantly cut spending, how fundamental rights are key in realising European integration, and that the tripod on which the EU stands is made up of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. He also said that accession to the European Convention on Human Rights is important and the crisis has caused the erosion and dismantling of human rights protection in Europe.

Nils Muiznieks, the Commissioner for Human Rights from the Council of Europe talked about austerity measures hitting vulnerable populations, such as Roma migrants and people with disabilities and causing a rise in poverty for older people among other groups.

Other speakers focused on migrants' rights including Iverna McGowan from Amnesty International who talked mostly about the humanitarian disaster in the Mediterranean with people fleeing from Syria. Lotte Leicht, the Director of Human Rights Watch in Brussels also referred to the 'migrant rights crisis' and the worrisome death toll of ,migrants reaching Europe by sea.

Rodolfo Cattani, speaking on behalf of the Social Platform spoke about the horizontal non-discrimination directive and its importance referring also to examples of older people having reduced access to travel insurance deals. Questions from the floor included issues surrounding Roma rights, the idea of the EU acceding to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and worries about how the EU would be affected when it becomes party to the European Convention on Human Rights. As the hearing took place shortly after the Parliament published its report on the situation of fundamental rights in Europe, questions and comments from the floor on the report were taken. MEP Lunacek (Austria-Greens), the rapporteur for the horizontal directive presented a point to the panel which highlighted the lack of reference to the rights of older people and age discrimination in the report.

Following up from the hearing, AGE will propose amendments to the report to include older people's rights and challenges due to the crisis.

Wednesday 22 April 2015
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