On 13-14 February, Kari Käsper and Egert Rünne participated at the first meeting of FRANET coordinators, held in Vienna. The role of the coordinating organization is to ensure reliable, objective and comparable social-juridical data on the subject of fundamental rights in Estonia. For the next four years, this role belongs to the Estonian Human Rights Centre and Praxis. You can read Egert’s thoughts on the meeting and the main themes that were discussed.
EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency’s multidisciplinary survey network FRANET’s expert meeting seems to be a dry event with a lot of coffee. However, there resonated some emotional and deep thought on the perspectives and directions of Europe’s future. The meeting was opened by the speech on Europe’s situation given by Michael O’Flaherty, the director of EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency.
The biggest challenge in Europe at the moment is to ensure the fundamental rights of the Roma community. Roma’s life and general well-being are below any standards, starting with the availability of education and finishing with the living conditions. In the Estonian Human Rights Centre we have also studied the situation of Romas. You can soon read about their situation in Estonia from our newsletter.
Migration is another wide and burning issue. Even though statistics show that migration to Europe has arrived at the same level as before the crisis, every 18th individual crossing the Mediterranean still drowns.
In 2018, 2262 migrants drowned in the sea. That means 2261 unlived lives while shedding light upon the problems that Europe has not yet solved.
Additionally, general hate has taken its place in Europe. The last research carried out by FRA on antisemitism demonstrates that many jews are pondering on leaving Europe due to the last attacks. Populism is also a key factor, demolishing Europe and European values. The perfect example of this tendecy being Brexit that will not bring any positive development to the region.
Although LGBTI rights have thrived on the juridical level, there has not been enough discussions with people and therefore some fears are still standing strong. For example, according to last surveys, over 50% of gay couples are still afraid to publicly hold hands in all EU countries.
Michael O’Flaherty is convinced that this situation can only be changed in the collaboration of all human rights communities and with the inclusion of grass root level. Human rights advocates have stayed in the comfort zone for far too long, it is time to take action. we have to realize that we are not the architects of change but that lies in the hands of people and we have to actively communicate with them to ensure that.
To be successful in doing that, the organizations standing for human rights have to:
- fight fake news
- protect legal systems
- unite people
- move on to the local level
- communicate their work to a wider audience
While Poland and Hungary being examples, everything is not yet negative. Ireland can be seen as a good example as the development of last years have been positive thank to people who have given their vote to decisions that honour human rights both in the case of abortion and same-sex marriages. In addition to that, there are ongoing discussions to alleviate the existing rules of divorce.
For all these victories, the above-mentioned points and measures have been used where the organizations that share the same values have focused all their power to change the situation instead of arguing and quarrelling.
The rest of the meeting was filled with the overviews of technical aspects and discussions on the format and communication of the surveys and studies.
the meeting ended on an emotional note as the representatives of the UK participated at the meeting for the last time, due to Brexit. Unfortunately, the Brits have been leading partners and initiators in several human rights subjects.
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It is important to protect everyone’s human rights, because it helps to keep stability and peace in the society. There are many challenges for protection of human rights in Estonia: intolerance has really come out of the closet. Bad things happen when good people are too passive, but together we can make a change.
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