ENNHRI makes submission to the European Commission on the role of NHRIs as partners in the EU’s Rule of Law Framework

ENNHRI has made a submission to the European Commission (DG JUST) underlining how National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) can be structurally considered as partners in the context of the EU’s Rule of Law Framework. This comes in response to a communication from the European Commission, inviting stakeholders to input on how the EU’s rule of law toolbox could be enhanced.

The submission highlights the potential of NHRIs in contributing to the three pillars identified by the European Commission in its communication – ‘promotion’, ‘early prevention’ and ‘tailored response’. Each pillar closely relates to the work undertaken by NHRIs in Europe and the approach adopted in ENNHRI’s Regional Action Plan to promote and protect Human Rights Defenders and enable democratic space.

Summary of ENNHRI’s submission:

Promotion of the rule of law

  • NHRIs and the European Commission can cooperate on further promoting knowledge of the EU rule of law standards and case law at the national level.
  • The European Commission can support NHRIs to ensure that legislation and policies are implemented at the national level in line with the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights.
  • The European Commission can support ENNHRI to provide a forum to further foster capacity for NHRIs to promote the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights at the national level.

Early prevention

  • The European Commission could take into consideration NHRIs’ annual reports, special thematic reports, impact assessments of and interventions on policies, as they provide key resources for assessing early warning trends and systemic threats concerning the situation of democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights in EU countries.
  • NHRIs contribute to the judicial enforcement at the national and regional levels and provide information related to individual complaints and strategic litigation before national courts as regard the rule of law.
  • ENNHRI and the European Commission can foster closer cooperation on data collection and information exchange, contributing to early prevention of threats to rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights.

Provision of tailored responses

  • The European Commission can systemically consider NHRIs as national counterparts to ensure tailored responses in the context of the protection of the rule of law.
  • The European Commission should consider supporting NHRIs under threat as part of its actions and recommendations formulated towards Member States in the context of the EU Rule of Law Framework.

The role of NHRIs and ENNHRI is also recognised in the context of the proposed enabling conditions for the next generation of the European Structural and Investment Funds, and is also echoed in a European Parliament report proposing the establishment of a Panel of Independent Experts that includes ENNHRI.

Relevance beyond the EU

All the actions proposed are equally relevant for NHRIs of EU and non-EU states, as the latter can contribute to the rule of law work of the Directorates-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO), as well as through Council of Europe mechanisms.

As part of the EU’s external action, the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019 highlights the importance of human rights compliance and respect for the rule of law, and clearly recognises the role of NHRIs. The drafting of the new Action Plan is ongoing, and ENNHRI has submitted a written contribution to the European External Action Service highlighting the importance of considering NHRIs.

Next step

Building on the stakeholder’s reflection process and ongoing debates in the EU on this topic, the European Commission is foreseen to publish its own conclusions and proposals on how to strengthen the rule of law in the EU in June 2019.

» Download ENNHRI’s submission to the European Commission