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MEPs call for penalties to tackle human rights flaws in the EU

[Press release from the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 27 February 2014] The European Commission must "immediately" set up a system to monitor member countries’ compliance with EU values and accession criteria, says a resolution passed by Parliament on Thursday. This monitoring system should include binding recommendations and penalties for breaches, such as freezing EU funds, MEPs add.

The resolution, approved by 312 votes to 244, with 27 abstentions, analyses the respect for fundamental rights in the EU in 2012.

"In all EU countries there are breaches of EU values, principles and legislation. There are still too many places in Europe and too many cases that show that there are shortcomings. If the EU wants to be a moral force that will influence the rest of the world in a good way it has to be strict with itself," said the rapporteur, Louis Michel (ALDE, BE).

Monitoring compliance with EU value

The European Commission should "immediately" set up a new system to monitor compliance with the EU accession criteria, commonly known as the "Copenhagen criteria", regularly and in an objective manner, says the text. This new “Copenhagen mechanism" would serve to set indicators, draw up binding recommendations and impose penalties such as freezing EU funding for countries that fail to comply. This should be done in an objective way, avoiding any double standards, it adds.

MEPs also suggest revising EU Treaty Article 7 (rules for determining whether there is a clear risk of a serious breach of EU values in a member state). The aim would be to separate clearly the "risk" and "violation" stages. To help prevent breaches of EU values in the long term, MEPs also call for the creation of a "Copenhagen Commission" of independent high-level experts on fundamental rights.

Assisting migrants in distress at sea

Parliament calls on the EU and its member states to review any laws that could be used to punish people assisting migrants in distress at sea. Rescue efforts "should be welcomed and (...) never lead to any form of sanctions", it says.MEPs also express regret that even under the EU’s new asylum system, children applying for international protection could be put in prison.

Right to die with dignity

Parliament also calls for respect for dignity at the end of life, by ensuring that "decisions expressed in living wills are recognised and respected". MEPs ask EU countries to protect freedom of religion or belief, including the freedom of those without a religion not to suffer discrimination.

Rights of minorities and persons with disabilities

The resolution stresses the need to protect national minorities, regional linguistic groups and constitutional regions at EU level and set up a monitoring system modelled on the example of national Roma strategies. National minorities make up over 10% of the EU population, says the resolution.

MEPs also urge national governments to invest more in policies to integrate persons with disabilities in society by removing all forms of discrimination and restrictions on their rights to vote and stand for elections. Member states should also help them to live independently adds the text.

Please find here the original press release.

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