15 Sep 2020

ENNHRI inputs on new European Democracy Action Plan

ENNHRI has made a submission to the European Commission on the new European Democracy Action Plan, which aims to tackle key challenges for European democracy, including in relation to elections, media freedom and pluralism, and the fight against disinformation.

This follows ENNHRI’s earlier submissions on strengthening the rule of law and the review of the strategy for implementing the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights.It is also consistent with a recent call from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights for the EU to cooperate and engage more closely with National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).

The submission makes 3 key recommendations to the Commission:

  1. Ensure synergies and complementarity of the Action Plan with the Commission’s policies and instruments on the rule of law and fundamental rights.

Given their intertwined nature, the new Action Plan should complement the Commission’s existing tools and policies in these areas, such as its first annual rule of law monitoring cycle. ENNHRI’s previous submission on the rule of law in the EU – which includes national reports from NHRIs – provides essential information on the thematic focuses of the Action Plan. It identifies trends and challenges related to the enabling framework for civil society organisations and human rights defenders, pressure on democratic checks and balances affecting electoral and legislative procedures, and threats to media pluralism and independence.

  1. Recognise and support the role of NHRIs in ensuring democratic checks and balances and civic participation in democratic systems, through informed decision-making and democratic debate.

A strong and independent NHRI in compliance with the UN Paris Principles is a crucial element for ensuring democratic checks and balances in any country that takes the rule of law and fundamental rights seriously. The Commission itself has included their existence as indicator for the rule of law. Through their advisory and monitoring role, and cooperation with both state and non-state actors, NHRIs are ideally placed to promote fundamental rights and democratic values. The new Action Plan should guarantee a safe and enabling environment for NHRIs and civil society to operate independently and effectively, especially in the context of shrinking democratic space in the EU, exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19.

  1. Further support ENNHRI’s role to enable NHRIs’ cross-border cooperation and partnership with the EU for a democratic Europe.

ENNHRI supports NHRIs in their establishment and accreditation and facilitates their cross-border cooperation and peer exchange, as well as their engagement with European actors. Such collaboration is essential for NHRIs to promote the EU’s fundamental values effectively, including through their contributions to European rule of law, democracy and human rights monitoring and enforcement frameworks, and collective action on ensuring an enabling environment for human rights defenders and civil society. Further financial support is neededto sustain and deepenNHRIs’ cross-border cooperation and partnership with the EU towards safeguarding democracy in Europe.

» Download full submission

Photo: © European Union 2019 (Flickr)