Cooperation with EU Institutions

EU

For ENNHRI, beyond individual member state governments, the following are important actors: the European Council, and its Human Rights Working Group (COHOM); the European Parliament, and its committees, including the SubCommittee on Human Rights (DROI) and Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE); the European Court of Justice; the European Commission; the EU External Action Service and newly established mandate of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights.

European Parliament

European Parliament is the only directly-elected body of the European Union. Its members, the MEPs, work within several specialised committees and subcommittees, among which The Committee on Human Rights of the European Parliament (DROI) and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

The LIBE Committee is responsible for the vast majority of the legislation and democratic oversight of Justice and Home Affairs policies. Whilst doing so, it ensures the full respect of the Charter of Fundamental Rights within the EU, the European Convention on Human Rights and the strengthening of European citizenship.
DROI Committee’s main objectives involve ensuring that human rights are at the forefront of European foreign policy and mainstreaming human rights across all policy areas. The committee may adopt reports and resolutions, thus contributing to the international debate on subjects such as the death penalty, torture or the fight against impunity.

ENNHRI is often participating in these committee’s hearings and discussions on several of human rights issues, to ensure that NHRIs’ expertise is taken into account.

European Commission

ENNHRI has several links with the European Commission, in particular with the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUSTICE), the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPLOI), Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and Directorate-General for International Co-operation and Development (DG DEVCO).

Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUSTICE) under its Justice programme, provides a framework for mutual learning, exchange good practice and cooperation which included as well an operational grant for ENNHRI, awarded in 2015. The objectives of the grant are, among others:
• Mutual learning and spread of good practice between ENNHRI members in relation to European law and policy, and their national application
• Analysis and debate of European law and policy developments relevant to ENNHRI and their application at national level
• NHRI input to European activities in relation to fundamental rights
• Developing ENNHRI’s

Furthermore, ENNHRI’s flagship project on human rights of older persons in care, which aims to embed a human rights based approach in the care of older persons in Europe, is funded by the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)

Within the EU, the fundamental rights are guaranteed nationally by the constitutions of individual countries and at EU level by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (the Charter), adopted in 2000 and binding on EU countries since 2009. The Charter lays down the fundamental rights that are binding upon the EU institutions and bodies and applies to national governments when they are implementing EU law.

The Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) was established in 2007 to undertake research, data collection and provide expert advice to the EU and member states with regards to the development and application of fundamental rights in the EU. As FRA is mandated to cooperate with the full spectrum of domestic human rights bodies, it has been issuing extensive reports providing an overview of the different national bodies in EU Member States ‘with a mandate to monitor fundamental rights.

FRA has taken steps to integrate NHRIs into its activities, for instance, by producing a survey of EU NHRIs in 2010 and, convening meetings of EU NHRIs, national equality bodies (NEBs) and Ombuds institutions in 2012 and 2013, to promote coordination, peer exchange and strategic joint actions at EU level.

The FRA interacts with NHRIs on a regular basis, with regard to the annual planning of its activities as well as its involvement in specific fundamental rights programmes. It has the mandate to cooperate with ‘public bodies competent in the field of fundamental rights in the Member States, including national human rights institutions’.

European External Action Service (EEAS)

The European Union is founded on a strong engagement to promote and protect human rights, democracy and rule of law worldwide. The EU Special Representative for Human Rights Mr Stavros Lambrinidis, appointed in 2012, helps make EU policy on human rights in non-EU countries more effective, coherent and visible.

Worldwide, the EU, through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) supports NHRIs to strengthen their role as key actors to promote and protect human rights in line with the UN Paris Principles .

The legal basis for EIDHR support to NHRIs can be found in article 2.1- ii of the Regulation EU N° 235/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing a financing instrument for democracy and human rights worldwide (EIDHR Regulation 2014-2020). According to the EIDHR Regulation 2014-2020, the European Union focus inter alia on the support of National Human Rights Institutions.

The support of NHRIs is also specifically mentioned under Objective 5 of the
EIDHR multiannual indicative programme 2014-2017. This is why, the Action Document for Supporting key actors – National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) (Annex 5 of the EIDHR Annual Action Program 2014) foresees the strengthening through EIDHR support of the capacities of NHRIs individually and collectively in line with the UN Paris Principles, in order to increase their impact and effectiveness in promoting and protecting human rights, with a specific focus on their activities related to human rights and business, and economic, social and cultural rights.

The Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019) provides an agreed basis for a truly collective effort by both EU countries and the EU institutions, stating, among others, that “the EU puts special emphasis on ownership by, and co-operation with, local institutions and mechanisms, including national human rights institutions.”

Council of the European Union

Human Rights Working Group (COHOM)
The Human Rights Working Group was created under the Council of the European Union in 1987 and it is responsible for human rights issues in the EU’s external relations. It is composed of human rights experts from Member States and the European Commission.

The Human Rights Working Group meets regularly. The agendas of meetings cover the various aspects of the EU’s human rights policy such as action in international fora, dialogues with third countries, thematic issues and mainstreaming.

COHOM promotes the systematic inclusion of human rights issues in the agenda of expert’s meetings on thematic issues and at summits between the EU and third countries.