The Fundamental Rights Report of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) for the year 2023 offers an insightful reflection on the progress made and the areas where human rights protection fell short within the EU during 2022.
A significant portion of the report focuses on the fundamental rights implications resulting from the aggression in Ukraine and the challenges that emerged as a consequence. One positive aspect highlighted is the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, which granted access to vital resources such as employment, housing, social assistance, education, and healthcare. However, it is worth noting that a majority of those who sought refuge were women and girls, many of whom faced additional responsibilities caring for children or elderly relatives. This underscores the necessity for targeted support measures, including the following:
a) Ensuring the availability of affordable, safe, and suitable housing, particularly for women and children. b) Facilitating access to suitable employment opportunities that align with individuals’ skills and qualifications, while protecting against exploitation. c) Promoting the integration of children into regular schools and providing swift access to childcare facilities. d) Providing comprehensive support for women who have experienced sexual violence and exploitation.
FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty emphasizes that “women and girls are innocent victims of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine” and highlights the temporary protection offered by EU countries. However, he emphasizes the ongoing conflict necessitates longer-term solutions that give specific attention to women.
The report also addresses other key fundamental rights issues that arose in 2022, including:
a) Escalating child poverty: The pandemic and increasing energy costs pushed nearly one in four children into a state of poverty. The EU and national governments are urged to fulfill their commitments under the European Child Guarantee, which was initiated in 2022, and allocate funds to alleviate child poverty, particularly among disadvantaged households such as single-parent, Roma, and migrant families.
b) Prevalence of hate: Hate crimes and hate speech, particularly online, remained a significant concern in 2022, partly fueled by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. However, only half of the EU countries had developed national anti-racism action plans. The report calls for more countries to establish such plans and implement concrete local and regional measures to combat racism effectively.
c) Safeguarding rights amidst technological advancements: As the deployment of artificial intelligence and digital services continues to expand, ensuring effective protection of fundamental rights is becoming increasingly critical. The EU Digital Services Act enacted in 2022 acknowledged the necessity for robust rights protection, and adherence to its principles during implementation is essential. Furthermore, EU legislators must strive to establish similar robust safeguards within the proposed EU’s AI Act.
The report provides a comprehensive summary and analysis of major human rights developments in the EU during 2022. It also presents proposals for action, encompassing various areas such as the utilization of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights by Member States, promotion of equality and non-discrimination, combating racism and related forms of intolerance, inclusion and equality for the Roma community, asylum, borders, and migration policies, safeguarding privacy and data protection in the information society, promoting child rights, ensuring access to justice, and implementing the United Nations’ Disability Convention (CRPD).