EHF and the Fundamental Rights Agency
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) is one of the EU’s decentralised agencies. The FRA is based in Vienna and helps to ensure that the fundamental rights of people living in the EU are protected.
Through the collection and analysis of data in the EU, the FRA assists EU institutions and EU Member States in understanding and tackling challenges to safeguard the fundamental rights of everyone in the EU.
The EHF takes a full part in the civil society Platform of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency.
Clash with religious reactionaries : At the meeting the EHF, represented by Hans Christian Cars, issued a leaflet refuting scurrilous criticism of the EHF by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe.
The plenary sessions dealt with issues concerning homophobia, asylum, the Roma, disabled persons and other topics. There were many parallel side-meetings. At those organised by the Iona Institute, the Alliance Defense Fund and the European Network of Communities there was advocacy of the unimpeded right of parents to cater for the education of their children. Hans Christian for EHF reports that he
“stressed that all school children should get unbiased education about religions and non-religious lifestances such as humanism and opposed the sweeping statement made by the ADF, that parents in Germany and Sweden were being ‘imprisoned for exercising their religious convictions with regard to their children’. Having listened to the many examples given by the ENC of alleged discrimination against Christians I pointed out that Christianity also enjoyed a number of privileges, such as having their own state (the Holy See), agreements with states on school education as well as numerous financial advantages in most European countries. I also mentioned the discrimination within the Catholic Church itself banning Catholic women from priesthood.”
“At the side-meeting organised by Human Rights without Frontiers, its director Willy Fautré suggested that the FRA should broaden the scope of its mandate and include issues concerning freedom of religion and belief, an area that the FRA management feels unauthorised to delve into. I said that I was quite supportive of Mr. Fautré’s proposal and thought that the EHF would be as well. Alexander Schuster, a humanist from Italy, expressed himself in favour of the proposal.”
The following topics were discussed :
(a) poverty and social exclusion
(b) the FRA Annual Work Programme 2012
(c) the Lisbon treaty, and
(d) the cooperation between the FRA and FRP/civil society.
Seven working groups discussed the FRA work programme 2010 and the multi-annual framework 2013-2017. Regarding the work programme EHF suggested that the FRA undertake a study of the practices concerning state religions versus secular societies with a view to identifying examples of preferential treatment and religious indoctrination, for instance within the school systems.
EHF submission regretting the lack of attention in the FRA’s programme on economic, social and cultural rights by contrast with civil and political rights.
EHF took part in a consultative conference in Brussels for civil society stakeholders on the setting up of a fundamental rights platform, when our General Secretary, Georges Liénard, was one of the invited speakers. He introduced the EHF and said its concern was to promote a secular and humanist vision of cultural, social and ethical issues in Europe, protecting the rights of Humanists, atheists, agnostics, free thinkers and other non-believers, and to develop a society that was adapted to people of all beliefs.
He recalled that the European Court of Human Rights had established that all people, whatever their religious or philosophical beliefs, should be treated equally: this was a basic principle of the rule of law and a guarantee to safeguard democracy and a way to develop and implement human rights. Without this equality, there would be discrimination against non-believrsr, against homosexuals, against women, and all manner of disadvantaged people.
He raised questions about how equality could be ensured: the Charter of Fundamental Rights allowed citizens to go to court but the overall problem of implementation of human rights was subject to continuing debate within civil society. The Fundamental Rights Agency needed to be engaged in this debate. There were also problems with religious hierarchies which took a stand on issues and had the benefit of a separate channel of consultation from that for the generality of civil society organisations.