The European Union has launched an agency for fundamental rights vaunted as an instrument for developing the its own “moral” dimension. Yet critics’ reactions were tepid. The EU commissioner for justice, freedom and security said the new agency addresses “a rising threat to core values of democracy and equality”. But Amnesty International said the minimalist mandate contrasted sharply with the scale of human rights problems in the EU. The head of Amnesty in Europe, Dick Oosting, offered EuroNews this comment:
“What we say now is okay, if that is what we have, let’s make the best of it! But you have at the same time to address the other issues. Two weeks ago, the European Parliament adopted this report on CIA renditions; It is a massive scandal really that this happened in Europe. An agency in fundamental rights that cannot deal with such basic human rights issues, that is a problem. So politically, the Council (Member States) needs to move on this.”
Inaugurated in Vienna, the new EU Agency will replace an EU racism monitoring centre with a
broader remit. It is intended to help tackle rising racism and intolerance and prevent any member state from becoming a haven for violent hate-mongers.
Yet a liberal Italian member of the European Parliament, Marco Cappato, sounded unconvinced.
He said: “The European Commission has for too long renounced its role as guarantor of the European Union, and therefore of democratic standards and respect for rights.”
He went on: “Every time there is a problem it outsources, creates an agency, a working group – on drugs, or on immigration… with the risk of tying up in red tape themes that need political solutions.”
With a 14-million-euro budget and staff of around forty – resources which will expand – the rights agency is supposed to help EU institutions and governments harmonise legislation and law enforcement, analyse data on xenophobia, and raise public awareness by involving grassroots civic groups.