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This study comes following the request of the European Parliament EP for information on the consequences of surveillance for fundamental rights. However, since and the terrorist attacks that occurred on European soil, some countries have reformed their intelligence legislation to expand their surveillance practices. It shows that even though surveillance has been developed in many countries since , not enough has been done to protect fundamental rights. Regarding oversight bodies, all Member States have diverse bodies assuming this activity, including expert bodies, national parliaments through parliamentary committees and Data Protection Authorities DPAs , with various degrees of power and independence.

Finally, the report shows that the possibilities for effective remedies are limited and that not many citizens resort to them. To facilitate this process, the Commission adopted its Operational Guidance on taking account of fundamental rights in Commission Impact Assessments , which includes a "fundamental rights check list", that helps the Commission's services identify which fundamental rights could be affected by a proposal and examine systematically the impact on different policy options.

In following steps of the legislative process, the Commission and other EU bodies undertake a final legal analysis of the draft initiative, verifying its compliance with the fundamental rights.

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Impact assessments and legal assessments are therefore complementary. First, the Commission wants to understand the full range of impacts that the legislative proposal may entail and later it concludes whether certain rights have been indeed violated and whether such interferences are considered proportionate and legitimate. The Commission moreover holds Member States accountable, making sure that when they implement EU law, they also respect fundamental rights. To do so the Commission can launch infringement proceedings against Member States when necessary.

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The Commission may take legal action — an infringement procedure — against an EU country that fails to implement EU law. Possible infringements of EU law are identified on the basis of its own investigations or following complaints from citizens, businesses or other stakeholders. The infringement procedure starts with a letter of formal notice, by which the Commission allows the Member State to present its views regarding the breach observed.

If the Member fails to give a satisfactory answer, the Commission may refer the issue to the Court of Justice, which in certain cases, can impose financial penalties. For example, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Hungary for its law on foreign-funded NGOs adopted in June According to this law, NGOs receiving annual foreign funding above a certain amount had to label themselves in all their publications, websites and press material as "organisations supported from abroad" and to provide detailed information regarding their donors and exact amounts of transactions which were then made public.

This law indirectly discriminates and disproportionately restricts donations from abroad to civil society organisations. It moreover considerably restricts the work of NGOs, as it could prevent them from raising necessary funds and from carrying out their activities and it was considered as breaching EU law. The Commission noted that the law interfered with the fundamental rights enshrined in the EU Charter, in particular the right to freedom of association and the right to protection of private life and of personal data. Hungary replied to the Commission's letter of formal notice but the European Commission concluded that its serious concerns had not been addressed and therefore initiated the second stage of the infringement procedure, by issuing a reasoned opinion.

If Hungary fails to reply satisfactorily to the reasoned opinion, then the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, see the full press release.


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The Commission is organized around Directorate-Generals DG , which are a branch of an administration dedicated to a specific field of expertise. This DG is charged with monitoring the implementation of the Charter of fundamental rights and is responsible for matters of age discrimination. To learn more about other Commission services and their work to promote the rights of older people, have a look at the Active Senior Citizens for Europe publication.

This is legislative proposal tabled by past President of the European Commission, Jose-Manuel Barroso in , upon pressure by civil society including AGE , which advocated that the EU should provide to everyone equal protection from discrimination. For the time being EU legislation on age, disability, religion and belief and sexual orientation only covers discrimination in employment and occupational training whereas protection against racism and gender-based discrimination is higher than that available to other grounds.

However almost 10 years after the initial proposal, the directive is still stuck in negotiations, due to strong resistance from a few Member States for example some are reluctant to extent equal rights to gay and lesbian people, others were worried how the directive might affect their social protection systems which treat people differently based on their age and disability, several were afraid about the costs but also the deadline for transposing the directive, whereas some felt that they already offered better protection under national legislation.

Several of these issues were raised and at least partially solved during the lengthy negotiations. NGOs have addressed some of the excuses used by Member States to delay the adoption of the directive in a joint statement in The long awaited Accessibility Act AA was launched in December , but it does not adequately cover against discrimination for all groups and in all areas of life. With regard to age discrimination the directive already includes an exception about financial services, for which age can be used as a proxy when it is determining factor for the product or service in question.

In addition there is a general clause allowing public and private actors to apply measures which discriminate on the ground of age as long as they can be justified by a legitimate aim. This allows for a broad range of measures to be objectively justified as non-discriminatory. However, lacking an indicative list of what constitutes a legitimate aim this clause is open to abuse. The Latvian EU Presidency has included a new exemption for preferential pricing in respect of specific age groups in the draft directive.

The proposed new text by the Latvian Presidency allows any type of preferential charges, fees or rates in respect of persons in a specific age group not to constitute discrimination. This clause creates open-ended opportunities for commercial actors to apply different prices for specific age groups without any justification. In practice, providers are free to apply any rate or fee even if it is detrimental for a specific age group, regardless if they pursue only economic profit and no matter whether they end up excluding a group of persons in the market.

In our point of view this basically nullifies the principle of age equality and excludes older people from the scope of the directive. They should lobby their governments to support this proposal in the Council meetings, which take place at least every semester. Last, NGOs should explain the shortcomings of the proposed wording to national decision-makers and call for a strong text that gives equal protection from age discrimination to other grounds.

Its members are elected every 5 years by universal direct suffrage in the 28 Member States. Jointly with the Council in many policy areas, the EP has the power to approve, reject or amend legislation proposed by the European Commission. The Parliament also has the power to approve or reject the nomination of Commissioners, and it has the right to censure the Commission as a whole.

In these capacities, Members of the European Parliament MEPs are involved in lawmaking, democratic supervision and financial decisions that impact the daily lives of the people of Europe. Human rights are among the main priorities of the Parliament. It is involved in election observation missions to support free and fair elections in countries outside the EU. The European Parliament also provides assistance to parliaments of third countries with a view to strengthening their institutional capacity.

Moreover, each year the European Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to individuals or organisations who fight for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Monitoring the situation of human rights in the world, the Parliament has been influential in halting human rights breaches in certain countries.

Unlike Committees, intergroups are not official bodies of the European Parliament. Although they not do represent its official view, intergroups bring together MEPs from different political groups to discuss subjects ranging from human rights to economic and social issues. The new Intergroup brings together MEPs interested in discussing ageing- and family- related issues; it works in two sub-groups, one on active ageing and the other one on family, while the issue of intergenerational solidarity is mainstreamed in all of the Intergroup's activities.

More information about the intergroup and its activities can be found on the AGE website. DROI provides important expert advice and a forum for essential debate where NGOs, human rights defenders, members of the European Commission or the European Council can present their views. It handles issues of protection of personal data, migration and asylum rules, the integrated management of common borders as well as police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. However, its scope does not include gender-based discrimination, which is overseen by the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality , and employment discrimination and social rights, which are covered by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.

The European Parliament adopts reports on the situation of fundamental rights and human rights on an annual basis. As reflected in their titles, one of these reports has a focus on the EU and the other on external affairs. This annual monitoring exercise is important as it raises awareness of challenges to the equal enjoyment of human rights and prompts the EU institutions, Member States and third countries to take action to prevent human rights violations. The European Parliament is paying increasing attention to older persons and adopted in December two important resolutions calling the European Union and its Member States to strengthen their international commitment to the human rights of older people.

For more information about these resolutions, see here. The Council of the European Union is the EU institution representing the Member States and is composed of one representative of each national government at ministerial level. Each Member State has a fixed number of votes, related to the population of their country. In addition to ensuring that fundamental rights are taken into account when developing EU legislation and action, the Council is also very active in the promotion of human rights in its relations with non-EU countries and international institutions, as well as in the negotiation of international agreements.

This framework outlines EU's work priorities to promote human rights in its external action.

The Contribution of the Fundamental Rights Agency

One of the new challenges recognised for the first time in the new Action Plan that binds the EU's external action on human rights, is the promotion of the rights of older persons. Although the Action Plan does not foresee a specific activity or measure, the inclusion of the rights of older persons in this plan is an important development as it recognises for the first time the role of the EU to increase awareness of the human rights and specific needs of older persons paying particular attention to age-based discrimination.

In , these conclusions focused on several issues, including asylum and migration, rights of the child, racism and xenophobia, and violence against women. It has also helped to draw up a series of guidelines on checking fundamental rights compatibility. During this 6-month period, the presidency is responsible for driving forward the Council's work on EU legislation, ensuring orderly legislative processes and cooperation among Member States.

Fundamental rights in the EU: the gaps to close

In this capacity EU presidencies play an important role in pushing human rights in the EU agenda. For example, Council Presidencies often hold high level conferences on issues such as violence against women, or non-discrimination. They may also request the FRA to issue opinions or do research on certain topics of fundamental rights. Furthermore, presidencies chair meetings, where key legislative proposals, such as the draft horizontal non-discrimination directive, are discussed. This is why it is crucial for NGOs to build close links with the Member State that holds the EU Presidency, to monitor their activities and participate in their work.

The Council also draws up and adopts thematic guidelines , which support EU external action and provide EU officials with practical information on how to promote specific rights in their relations with third countries.

Boosting trust in institutions

These guidelines are not legally binding, but because they have been adopted at ministerial level, they showcase a strong commitment by EU leaders and recognize certain topics as priorities for the Union. Although to date the EU has not adopted guidelines about the rights of older persons, they have issued guidelines about the rights of the child, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex LGBTI and about combating violence against women and girls. Finally, just like the European Parliament, the Council adopts once a year a report on human rights and democracy, which details all the EU's work and achievements in the advancement of human rights through its external action.

Its role is to make sure the voice of the European Union and its people are heard in the world.