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Supporting National Human Rights Institutions in monitoring fundamental rights and the fundamental rights aspects of the rule of law

EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Regional Cooperation, 2022-2024

The EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) is implementing a regional project to support national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in monitoring fundamental rights and the fundamental rights aspects of the rule of law. NHRIs in seven EU Member States, including the Ombudswoman of Croatia, are taking part in this project, as well as the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI).

The project aims to strengthen the role of NHRIs in the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights at the national level.

Project Status: Ongoing

Project start date: June 2022

Project end date: February 2024

What?

The project will support NHRIs in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – which are also EEA and Norway Grants beneficiary states – to make active use of the EU Charter in their work. The following NHRIs are taking part in the project:

 

Why?

FRA’s 2020 report Strong and effective national human rights institutions – challenges, promising practices and opportunities demonstrated the potential to further strengthen NHRIs in the EU. FRA has developed this project to put into practice some of the report’s opinions. It draws on the expertise of ENNHRI regarding rule of law monitoring by NHRIs.

This is in line with the Council of Europe’s Recommendation to strengthen NHRIs. It reinforces the role of NHRIs in enhancing the application of the EU Charter, as stated in the 2020 EU Strategy to strengthen the application of the Charter, the EU’s rule of law mechanisms, as well as the Charter-compliant use of EU funds (Regulation 2021/1060, the ‘Common Provisions Regulation on 8 EU Funds’).

How?

The project will support the NHRIs in developing and implementing activities to promote the application of the EU Charter nationally. It will strengthen their

  • staff knowledge about the EU Charter
  • capacity to monitor fundamental rights and fundamental rights aspects of the rule of law.

The latter will build on ENNHRI’s methodology of the rule of law reporting. While NHRIs will be able to draw on the wealth of national data collected by FRA, this project will particularly make use of FRA’s expertise on the EU Charter and existing training material such as FRA’s e-learning EU Charter tool.

Lessons from the project will be shared and promoted across the EU, through the network of NHRIs and other stakeholders. Planned project outputs include methodologies, toolkits on the EU Charter, capacity building events and reports about the application of the EU Charter and the human rights structures in the partner countries. The project will run until the end of February 2024.

Local context

In addition to the activities and deliverables planned for all project partners, there are also some specific for implementation in Croatia:

  • Expert Discussion: Applying the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in National Human Rights Institutions (for the staff of the Office of the Ombudswoman) (September 2023)
  • National diagnostic workshops to determine key intervention points in Croatia (for the public and civil servants working on EU funds) (October-December 2023)
  • Regional discussions on the Rule of Law and its implications for Croatia, focusing on different aspects of the Rule of Law Report: Four roundtables for various stakeholders organized in Osijek, Rijeka, Split and Zagreb (October – December 2023)
  • National outreach in Croatia: Training for civil servants (November 2023)
  • National outreach in Croatia: Training for NGOs and CSOs (December 2023)
  • Conference to present the Special Report on the State of Human Rights of Older Persons in Croatia as well as Mapping of national human rights structures in Croatia (December 2023)
  • Judicial academy – one day training for judges on the use of Charter (January 2024)

Deliverables

 

What are fundamental rights?

Fundamental rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to everyone in the EU, which was founded on the values of human rights, equality, rule of law, democracy, freedom and human dignity.

They are the same no matter where you’re from, what you believe or how you live. They set standards for how we live and work in Europe today.

Fundamental rights are at the heart of the European project and the EU enshrined them in its Charter of Fundamental Rights. FRA was set up to protect and promote them.

Despite this heritage, there are many challenges to the practice of fundamental rights. FRA collects and analyses data to understand and tackle these issues.

What is the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights?

The Charter of Fundamental Rights is the European Union’s bill of human rights. Its 50 articles bring together the rights and freedoms belonging to everyone in the EU.

General provisions in the Charter set out its detailed interpretation and application. Member States have a duty to respect and observe the Charter when acting within EU law.

The European Commission drafted the Charter in 1999. and the European Parliament proclaimed it a year later. The Charter came into full legal effect with the Treaty of Lisbon on December 1, 2009.

When are authorities required to apply the Charter?

The Charter of Fundamental Rights binds Member States “only when…implementing Union law”. But EU law often applies at national level. It influences significant parts of Member States’ law and policymaking.

This makes judges, politicians, government officials and legal practitioners core Charter agents.

Application of the Charter is central to the proper implementation of EU law. FRA’s handbook on Applying the Charter of Fundamental Rights offers guidance.

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