06 Jul 2021

ENNHRI publishes its second annual report on the state of the rule of law in Europe

Building on a first successful joint rule of law reporting experience last year, ENNHRI has coordinated and published a comprehensive 2021 regional rule of law report reflecting the perspectives of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) on the state of the rule of law in their country and across Europe

This year’s report brings together the country reports of ENNHRI’s members in 42 countries across Europe, compiled on the basis of NHRIs’ human rights monitoring and reporting functions, having regard to their mandate and their national strategic priorities. It also contains information on NHRIs’ establishment and accreditation in 50 European countries. 

The report shows that negative trends identified in ENNHRI’s 2020 rule of law reporting were further exacerbated over the past year. Among our key findings, the report points to the fact that, while NHRIs have been increasingly recognised as important part of checks and balances in each country, there are persistent challenges on the establishment of and enabling environment for NHRIs in some European countries. This shows the need for further strengthening and safeguarding independent and effective NHRIs in compliance with the Paris Principles across the region.

NHRIs’ reports also expose restrictive laws, practices and attacks negatively affecting the enabling space and operations for civil society organisations and rights defenders, as well as increasing threats, intimidation and harassment targeting journalists and chilling media freedom and freedom of expression. NHRIs in some countries also raised concerns over serious human rights violations affecting the national rule of law environment, including systemic violations of human rights of migrants and ineffective responses to hate speech and crime routinely targeting racialised groups and LGBTI+ people. NHRIs further drew attention to the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to address it, including reduced accountability and transparency of governments’ action due to weakened oversight and participation mechanisms, against the background of severe implications of the crisis especially affecting people in a situation of vulnerability (among others, persons with disabilities, the elderly, Roma, migrants, homeless people as well as victims of domestic violence).

Joint rule of law reporting by NHRIs in Europe is meant to help EU and other regional policy makers get to a more comprehensive and informed assessment of the challenges facing human rights, rule of law and democracy in each country. The reporting exercise allowed ENNHRI to compile targeted submissions meant to directly feed into key monitoring processes at EU level, including the submission to the European Commission’s annual rule of law consultation on EU Member States and the contribution to the rule of law progress monitoring regularly conducted by the Commission for EU enlargement countries.

Indeed, as independent, state-mandated bodies with a broad human rights mandate, NHRIs reports and their follow-up action at national level increases the effectiveness of EU and regional monitoring mechanisms, informs their responses and enhances the impact of their efforts on the ground. To maximise impacts of NHRIs’ engagement, the report addresses a number of recommendations to EU and other regional bodies, including:

  • Prioritising the strengthening of fully independent and effective NHRIs in each European country, including by supporting, through ENNHRI, implementation of the 2021 Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Recommendation on NHRIs;
  • Investing to enable NHRIs to contribute effectively to efforts by EU and other regional bodies to advance human rights, rule of law and democracy in Europe, including by better involving them in relevant processes and by offering support to NHRIs under threat; 
  • Supporting NHRIs’ work in their countries, to make sure state authorities constructively engage with them and take action to implement their recommendations.

On their side, ENNHRI and its member NHRIs will continue to invest in a regular and comprehensive monitoring and follow-up of developments related to the rule of law in Europe to help national and regional policy makers make tangible progress in advancing rule of law, human rights and democracy on the ground.

» Visit the 2021 Regional Rule of Law Report interactive webpage

» Download the 2021 report on the state of the rule of law in the EU

» Download the 2021 report on the state of the rule of law in EU Enlargement countries