On 26 May, on the anniversary of 2019 European elections, Connect Europe partners met online for the last event of the project to discuss with activists, NGOs as well as representatives of international organisations and MEPs on the importance of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Julie Roskilde from Nyt Europa opened the discussion reminding that, as we saw from the developments in the context of the coronavirus crisis, fundamental rights are not set in stone. The danger that politicians in several countries actually can take advantage of the situation to take them away is always present.
This is why a discussion on the relevance of the Charter for all Europe is as important as ever. Birgit Van Hout, Regional Representative for Europe of the UN Human Rights Office, clearly stated which challenges we are facing and how they have been crystallized by Covid-19. Additionally, she states: « the right to participate, despite a vibrant civil society, is still underserved in Europe ».
The UN fears that CSOs – many of them already struggling before the crisis -are now facing a worsening scenario, especially in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown. CSOs have a crucial role in identifying flexible and smart solutions and which beneficiaries have been overlooked and need to be included in the dialogue with institutions. Thus, limiting stakeholders involvement and critical feedback can actually hinder the response to the pandemic.
Several activists and CSOs took the floor to show relevant country cases where fundamental rights are at risk. Veronika Mora (Civilizacio) from Hungary well explained the gradual and deliberate dismantling of the rule of law in the country, while Marta Lempart (Polish Women’s Strike) highlighted how the Polish government has used the emergency to further hinder manifestations of dissent. Christos Lazaridis (Greek Forum of Refugees) depicted a worrying scenario for refugees and asylum seekers in Greece. Lastly Emma Holten explained the threat to digital and online rights and to public space, even online. Several MEPs then shared their perspectives on the relevance and importance that the Charter should have and how the European Parliament should be the backbone of strategies defending fundamental rights. In particular, MEP Isabel Carvalhais, from the group S&D, Portugal highlighted how we have seen the Covid-19 worsening preexisting inequalities.
Ahead the event, amazing artistic works were collected by one of the partners of the Connect Europe project, each of them referring to one of the chapter of the Charter. View them here