Fundamental Rights in the EU

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) recently published ‘Fundamental Rights: challenges and achievements in 2014 – Annual Report 2014’. The Report explores the 2014 challenges and advancements in the area of fundamental rights in 2014, while also providing a concrete and comparative analysis on the fundamental rights situations in the 28 EU Member States.

FRA notes that the EU and its Member States have taken various important steps in order protect and promote fundamental rights, whilst also emphasising the worrying frequency of fundamental rights violations that occurred throughout the year.

The Report begins with a focus section, wherein it examines the benefits of a rights-based indicator framework in order to further guarantee that fundamental rights are respected and upheld within the European Union in both theory and practice.

Other chapters discuss equality and non-discrimination, racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, Roma integration, asylum, borders, immigration and integration, information society, privacy and data protection, rights of the child, access to justice including the rights of victims of crime, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and its use within Member States.

As Malta member of the FRANET Team, we are extremely proud to have contributed to this report by conducting and compiling the research and data relevant to our national scenario. We look forward to using the document in our advocacy activities, within a spirit of improving the quality of fundamental rights enjoyment by all persons in Malta.


aditus participates in the 7th annual meeting of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Platform – Vienna

The theme for this year’s annual meeting was: “Future fundamental rights priorities in the area of freedom, security and justice – The contribution of civil society”. The conference was held over two days and was divided between panel discussions and various working groups.

On the first day, we were welcomed and presentations started. Amongst the presentations given, one of the most interesting was by Max Schrems, a PhD student and founder of “Europe vs. Facebook”, who spoke about his experience of challenging Facebook on their data protection policies. He advised civil society organisation (CSO) with a few points for it to be successful:
– Relevant cause;
– Gaining trust by only making statements based on facts;
– Basic compliance with laws;
– Be persistent;
– Have a good story and work closely with the media.

Panel discussions started later on in the afternoon. The first debate focused on the ‘effective implementation of existing legislation and better cooperation.’ Most recognized the need to bring human rights on to the table, even when discussing security and justice within the EU. It was also emphasized that the EU must collaborate with CSO as they are, as Salla Saastomoined, Head of Unit DG Justice Fundamental Rights and Union Citizenship said: “closest to what is happening in the Member State”.

Given food for thought, we were invited to join any two of the twelve working groups. The topics of the working groups varied from funding, cooperation, hate crime and other fundamental issues. The themes of the working groups were selected based on an online survey sent to the participants prior to the conference. The aim of the working groups was to identify the gaps in the area, priority actions and contributions CSOs should offer. The most prominent challenges which surfaced from the working groups were:
– Limited capacity, training, resources and funding of CSOs;
– Lack of political will and suitable legislation;
– Limited networking and cooperation between organisations;
– Lack of implementation.
The day ended with a presentation of the candidates for the next Advisory Panel elections.

Day 2 started with the participants carrying out their duties and voting for the new Advisory Panel. The rest of the morning was spent learning the various practices which existing CSOs are effecting in ‘The Floor is Yours’. The possible risk factors and successes were analysed in making fundamental human rights part of the area of freedom, security and justice.

The conference ended with the handover of the Fundamental Rights Panel Advisory Panel and welcoming the newly-elected members and a closing note by Morten Kjaerum, Director of FRA.

Being the first time I had the opportunity to attend a FRA conference, I found it extremely beneficial and interesting. Besides getting the opportunity to network with active and dedicated persons within the human rights sector, I learned about various topics and got an insight on the position of the different EU Member States.

The major obstacles noted from the various organisations are mostly similar as mentioned above. This gave me an understanding on what is needed and our Platform for Human Rights Organisation in Malta, was highly congratulated and encouraged to bring together the various NGOs to overcome some of the hurdles.

Documentation is available from FRA’s site here: http://fra.europa.eu/en/event/2014/7th-fundamental-rights-platform-meeting.


International Women’s Day: violence against women remains a serious concern in Malta

Tomorrow, 8th March, is International Women’s Day. In commemoration, aditus foundation encourages the Maltese public, our government, and all authorities and institutions to focus on the impact of violence against women and to strive for its eradication — in policy and in practice. On 5th March, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) published Violence against women: an EU-wide survey. As the survey states, “Violence against women undermines women’s core fundamental rights, such as dignity, access to justice and gender equality.”

Maltese women are abused at work, at home, in public and online. Amongst the FRA survey’s findings was that, starting from the age of 15, 22% of Maltese women have experienced male physical and/or sexual violence. Women suffered 15% of this violence at the hands of a male partner. In addition, 50% of Maltese women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, whilst 26% have experienced stalking.

It must be noted that these numbers, as worrying as they are, may be much lower than the truth. For example, the women surveyed admitted not having reported serious incidents of physical and/or sexual violence by a partner. The women did not contact police because they preferred to deal with the violence themselves or believed it was a family matter (35%), felt that the incident was minor (22%), were afraid (13%) or ashamed (12%), or decided to keep it private – presumably not telling anyone (13%). However, in spite of just 15% of women having cited violence by a partner, a significant 41% of the women surveyed indicated that they knew women in their circle of friends and family who had been victims of some form of domestic violence.

Also, although we tend to think of violence as being physical, the impact and violence of psychological abuse should not be underestimated. It may even extend to economic violence by a partner, including forbidding a woman to work outside the home. Economic violence was reported by Maltese women at a rate of 11%.

aditus foundation welcomes the recent developments for the advancement of women’s rights in Malta: firstly, the establishment of the Sexual Assault Response Team at Mater Dei Hospital. The team will offer sexual assault victims the services of a doctor, nurse, social worker, psychologist and police officer. We also welcome the intended ratification by Malta, announced this week, of the Istanbul Convention, which is the convention to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence.

We ask that these initiatives be supported by vigorous educational campaigns and the continuous training of the police, healthcare professionals and employers. Furthermore, there needs to be a greater effort towards attaining gender equality in Malta, since the empowerment of women leads to higher levels of disclosure about violence against them.

“Every sector of Maltese society must be watchful for violence against women. All campaigns on the subject must be directed at men as much as at women — and men need to feel a positive, proactive engagement in confronting the violent acts of some men against women.”

Download statement here.


aditus participates in the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) conference

On 6th and 7th December, our Director participated in Justice in Austerity: challenges and opportunities for access to justice, the conference organised by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

The even attracted over 350 participants from all over the EU, gathering government officials, international and regional organisations, academic institutions and non-governmental organisations.

For aditus this was an opportunity to further explore a theme we’ve been toying with for a number of months, since we’re keen to look into current obstacles to effective justice in Malta.  Neil also engaged with other like-minded organisations, further strengthening our network of partners.

Key speakers included: Martin Schulz (EP President), Morten Kjaerum (FRA Director), Navanethem Pillay (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), and Viviane Reding (Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship).