Photo of project partners at the conlcuding conference of the FRA and ENNHRI project on strengthening NHRIs' monitoring of the rule of law and fundamental rights
23 Feb 2024

Strengthening NHRIs to advance EU common values and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: outcomes of FRA Conference on NHRIs

Today marks the end of the two-day conference organised by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). This focused on enhancing NHRIs’ role in advancing common values of the European Union (EU) and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. During the conference, ENNHRI and individual NHRIs participated in enriching discussions and exchanges. The Concluding Conference Statement recommends how Member States and the European Commission can strengthen NHRIs’ role in implementing the rule of law and fundamental rights in Europe. The statement also proposes that the European Commission adopt a Recommendation on NHRIs.

Ways forward for stronger and more effective NHRIs in the EU

The conference showcased the results of the FRA-led regional project on “supporting national human rights institutions in monitoring fundamental rights and the fundamental rights aspects of the rule of law.“ Funded under the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Regional Cooperation, NHRIs from seven EU countries were beneficiaries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. ENNHRI participated as an expert partner.

The Concluding Conference Statement on the role of NHRIs was also released: this outlines concrete recommendations to EU Member States and the European Commission. For example, it encourages:

  • Consultation of NHRIs on fundamental rights impact assessments of (draft) policy and legislation – this would be relevant both for national and EU legislation;
  • More rigorous follow-up to NHRI recommendations by state authorities, including through systematic tracking and public reporting of these recommendations;
  • Further involvement of NHRIs in domestic follow-up to European Commission recommendations on the rule of law; and
  • Providing adequate resources for NHRIs to function effectively, including when they receive additional mandates and roles like monitoring the fundamental rights compliance of EU funds.

The statement also proposes that the European Commission adopts a Recommendation on NHRIs. This would reinforce NHRIs’ central role in advancing fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law. Furthermore, it would clarify what is expected from EU Member States to ensure a strong and independent NHRI and can be a basis for a stronger EU reaction when NHRIs in Member States face undue threats.

The recommendations in the Concluding Statement offer a pathway to further strengthen the mutually reinforcing EU-NHRI relationship. Deepening this can make a true difference to citizens across Member States and their enjoyment of rights.

Read the Concluding Conference Statement here.

The project and its broader impact

The project focused on three main pillars:

  1. Enhancing the use of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights by NHRIs and strengthening their role in its enforcement at the national level
  2. Strengthening NHRIs’ capacity in monitoring fundamental rights and the rule of law, increasing NHRIs engagement with relevant European mechanisms to strengthen fundamental rights and the rule of law
  3. Developing the capacity of NHRIs to monitor fundamental rights compliance in the implementation of EU Funds

ENNHRI led the implementation of the second pillar. The project has allowed ENNHRI and its members to update their joint reporting methodology. It has also supported further impacts from the network’s annual reporting. This has included dedicated follow-up initiatives at the domestic level by the seven members involved, as well as supporting NHRI leadership competencies in addressing rule of law issues.

Related ENNHRI and NHRI work

Find out more below about ENNHRI’s work in this topic area:

  • ENNHRI’s and NHRIs’ work on applying the EU Charter
  • ENNHRI’s report – “Implementation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – Activities of NHRIs”
  • ENNHRI’s 2023 submission to the Commission’s report on applying the EU Charter
  • ENNHRI’s State of the Rule of Law in the European Union in 2022 and 2023