On December 2, 2020, the European Commission approved a strategy to strengthen the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the European Union. It was the second time that the European Commission approved a strategy on the Charter, the first one was in 2010. The European Commission fosters fundamental rights by emphasizing prevention, promotion, development and the implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The 2020 Strategy revolves around four basic pillars:
i) Judicial and legal actors training;
ii) the development of the Charter by the EU institutions, including by the decision-making process;
iii) training and education of citizens for the exercise of their human rights, and
iv) the introduction of a new conditionality in the execution of European funds.
CoR political priority 1 is to bring Europe closer to its people and to reinforce European democracy at all levels of government. It aims to improve the way the EU works, ensuring its policies and programmes meet the real needs of citizens.
In this respect, local governments play an important role in the promotion, protection and respect of fundamental rights, including actually putting them into practice, making the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights a reality for all.
The opinion highlights that the involvement of the CoR in the inter-institutional dialogue concerning the Charter is essential and suggests to set up contact points to facilitate the flow of information on the Charter between the different levels of government.
These contact points could also provide guidance for LRAs on how to shape their policies in full compliance with the Charter with concrete examples.
Another proposal is that since the local authorities are the closest level of governance to citizens and they are well place to raise people’s awareness on their rights and where to turn to if their rights are breached, CoR members could take the opportunity of Europe Day on 9 May and of the Conference on the Future of Europe to promote local activities, explaining and stressing the paramount importance of the Fundamental Rights and the European Charter in our democracies.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
welcomes the new Strategy to strengthen the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, as it specifically acknowledges the role of local and regional authorities (LRAs) as central stakeholders in promoting and protecting Charter rights;
calls for continuous involvement of LRAs, a fundamental level of democratic legitimacy, in promoting Charter values and monitoring compliance with the principles associated with it and believes that the participation of the CoR is essential in the inter-institutional dialogue concerning the Charter;
notes the important role that national and European associations of LRAs can play in this context, and is committed to step up its cooperation with them in order to raise LRAs' awareness and understanding with regard to the EU Charter;
stresses the importance of setting up contact points, which will facilitate the flow of information on the Charter between different levels of government and can also provide guidance for LRAs on how to shape their policies in full compliance with the Charter;
welcomes the funds allocated by the European Commission through the Rights and Values Programme to help municipalities and associations to work together on issues of common interest, enabling the exchange of good practice, and to develop networks of towns;
underlines that the European Commission should systematically perform a cross-check against the application of the Charter prior to granting EU funds, using a clear and transparent procedure. Compliance with Article 2 TEU, which encapsulates the Union's values, should constitute a conditionality for eligibility for EU funds;
calls for the Fundamental Rights Charter to be enacted on Europe Day (9 May) and at the Conference on the Future of Europe, and asks its members to promote local activities explaining and stressing the paramount importance of fundamental rights and the European Charter for our democracies;
fully supports the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.