Statement by Fintan Farrell, President of EAPN, TO THE CONVENTION HEARING ON THE CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS, 27 APRIL 2000
The European Union started with the creation of a single internal market and then developed into a monetary union. It is now time to move to a Union based on democracy and the access to fundamental rights of all citizens, including all residents in the Union. This is even more necessary now that the Union is to be greatly enlarged in the coming few years.
EAPN considers social exclusion to be the denial of fundamental rights. Therefore EAPN is very interested in following the work of the Convention and hopes that it will make a real difference to the lives of the over 60 million people experiencing poverty and social exclusion in the Europe Union.
The first principle we would want to see reflected in the Charter is the indivisibility of rights. At the end of Word War 2 rights were divided into civic and political rights on the one hand and economic and social rights on the other for political reasons given the opposition between two systems. This is no longer relevant. This Charter of Fundamental Rights provides an opportunity to regroup together all the rights. A person who is deprived from decent housing or decent work is in fact deprived of citizenship rights so if we are serious about creating a European Union where all have access to fundamental rights then if is a prerequisite that we acknowledge the indivisibility of rights.
It is a reality that some social rights can only be delivered in terms of programmatic rights, which means that they can only be implemented through putting in place implementing legislation and programmes. The Charter should commit the member states to put in place these programmes and legislation within specified time limits.
The second point which I would like to stress is the need to give the Charter a legally binding character. It is important that we do not just develop aspirations in relation to accessing rights but that we pursue this with the conviction that is inherent in making the Charter legally binding. This is why it is important that the Charter should be integrated into the Treaty on the occasion of the next IGC. Rights need to create obligations. They cannot be “à la carte”.
Rights must also be accessible. They must be accompanied by information mechanisms by which people can be informed of their rights, by outreach services by complaint procedures, and redress and evaluation mechanisms. Those charged with developing the Charter must also give consideration as to how the Charter will become operable and deliver real change.
Finally I would like to draw attention to the issue of collective and cultural rights. It is important that the Charter addresses this area of rights, as to only focus on individual rights runs the risk of producing outcomes that fail to take account of the needs of those from ethnic minorities with their own distinctive culture and identity. This is particularly true for ethnic groups for whom nomadism is a distinguishing feature and the failure to recognise the validity of the nomadic way of life undermines their possibility to access other fundamental rights.
I would like to conclude by thanking the organisers for the opportunity to take part in this hearing and to wish you a successful outcome to your work.