Fundamental Rights Agency

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The EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) is a Vienna-based agency of the European Union inaugurated on 1 March 2007. It was established by Council Regulation (EC) No 168/2007 of 15 February 2007 as the successor to the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). Its task is to “provide the relevant institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Community and its Member States when implementing Community law with assistance and expertise relating to fundamental rights in order to support them when they take measures or formulate courses of action within their respective spheres of competence to fully respect fundamental rights.”

The FRA was controversial even before it was created, given that the need for such a body was far from self-evident. The compliance of EU Member States (as well as of all other Member States of the Council of Europe) with human rights is already monitored by the European Court of Human Rights with regard to the European Human Rights Convention, and by various UN bodies with regard to other international human rights treaties; there was thus no necessity for yet another monitoring mechanism. This is why the FRA’s role is limited, on the one hand, to providing “expertise and assistance” (i.e., it is not a monitoring or supervisory body) and, on the other hand, by a reference to activities of the EU and its Member States “when implementing Community law” (i.e., the FRA has not the right to deal with any activities of Member States that do not relate to the implementation of EU law).

But if the FRA is merely a provider of academic expertise, then the question arises whether that expertise could not be provided from other sources. There is no lack of academic institutions in Europe dealing with human rights, and it is unlikely that the quality of the expertise that is procured could be improved by providing a special status – or even a monopoly – to one institution. On the contrary, the best expertise will be obtained through openness, transparency, and competition. Expertise and legal opinions should not be considered sacrosanct because “they are issued by an official EU agency”, but may be challenged on the grounds of their merits. In that sense, the expertise emanating from the FRA cannot enjoy a higher authority than that provided by any other academic.

It was to be expected from the outset that the FRA was going to be a highly politicised institution, which would be seeking a pivotal role for itself as a “maker” of human rights policy. Such a role would, however, be rather questionable from a democratic point of view, given the Agency’s remoteness from any democratic mandate.

In the years since the FRA has been established, all the concerns set out above have been confirmed. The Agency’s activities seem to be driven by ideological and political leanings of its senior staff rather than by any real necessity, and the “expertise” it provided has, from a purely academic point of view, often been of lamentable quality. This is particularly true for the Agency’s attempts to foster and promote the homosexualist ideology.

This website follows the FRA’s activities with critical attention. Our view is not that a Fundamental Rights Agency could under no circumstances contribute to a better and fuller understanding of human rights, but we believe that the FRA in its current set-up is neither willing nor capable to do so.

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Specific issues related to FRA:

Our critical stance with regard to the FRA may suprise those who believe that any institution claiming to promote “fundamental rights” must be worthy of uncritical support, but it is not without foundation. On this page, we therefore provide information on several instances that show how the Agency abuses its position to manipulate the discourse on “human rights” in order to promote rather peculiar socio-political objectives:

Opinion 4.2005 of the “EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights” on the Right to Conscientious Objection

Although this episode pre-dates the actual setting up of the FRA by some years it should be mentioned here as there is a certain continuity both regarding the persons involved and the means by which they pursue their objectives.

Already some years before the FRA was created the European Commission had set up a so-called “Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights“. The task of that Network was very similar to what later became the FRA’s mission, i.e. to provide “advice and expertise” to the EU and its Member States; the sole difference was that the Network was a much smaller structure, consisting of solely one “expert” per Member State. However, the fundamental problem of a closed shop of ideologically motivated “experts” monopolizing this advisory role was already visible at the time.

During the four years of its existence (2002-2006), the Network produced numerous documents on various fundamental rights issues – not all of them of particularly bad quality, but all of them with a clear political orientation.

Of all the documents that the Network produced, Opinion 4.2005 is certainly the most important one – and at the same time the most revelatory with regard to the Network’s ideological biases, its modus operandi, and its apparent lack of genuine legal expertise.

The factual background for this opinion was that the Government of the Slovak Republic was negotiating a bilateral agreement (a “concordat”) with the Holy See, which was scheduled to come into force shortly before the country was to join tthe EU. The proposed concordat contained a clause through which the Slovak Republic would have committed itself to guarantee respect for the right to conscientious objection of medical practitioners (not only Catholics, but all) with regard to ethically controversial practices such as abortion, euthanasia, medically assisted procreation, etc. This was not welcomed by the international abortion lobby (especially the US-based “Center for Reproductive Rights”, CRR), who intervened with the European Commission and the European Parliament in order to prevent Slovakia from concluding the proposed concordat under the pretext that the provision on conscientious objection was “contrary to fundamental rights” and could thus become a stumbling stone in the EU accession process. As a candidate for EU accession, Slovakia was at the time very vulnerable to such pressions.

The Strategy worked out. At the European Commission’s request, the “Network of Independent Experts” issued a comprehensive Report , the greater part of which consisted of direct quotations from a submission from CRR, in which it concluded that the recognition of a right to conscientious objection for medical practitioners might result in creating practical obstacles to the access of women to abortion, included in cases where abortion was not illegal. In other words, the report argued that abortion, if and where it was legally permitted, was a “right” of the pregnant woman that superseded the rights of everyone else. This important “finding” was trumpeted accross all mass media, and the Slovak government was made understand that the explicit recognition of the right to conscientious objection might set an end the country’s aspiration to join the EU. In the end the Slovak government lost its parliament majority and fell, and the concordat was not concluded.

From a scholarly legal perspective, the Network’s “legal opinion” lacks all credibility, and it subsequently even turned out that it had not been jointly drafted by all its members, but only by its coordinator, Olivier De Schutter from Belgium, who passed off his own opinions as those of the Network.

The case of Opinion 4.2005 is nevertheless highly significant, as it evidences how certain pressure-groups, in close co-operation with politically like-minded “experts”, skilfully use the language and institutions of human rights for political purposes that stand in clear contradiction to human rights. In the case at hand, a so-called “right to abortion” has superseded fundamental rights of much higher rank, namely the right to life (of the unborn child) and the freedom of conscience (of all medical practitioners.

The now defunct “Network of Independent Experts” stands in a line of continuity with today’s FRA, of which it must be considered the precursor. Not only is the FRA’s role as provider of “advice and expertise” similar to that of the Network, but it was actually  the repeated calls from within the Network for a “more permanent structure” that led to the creation of the Agency. The Agency’s Director, Morten Kjaerum, is a former member of the Network, whereas many other former members (including, of course, Olivier De Schutter) have found their way into the Agency’s team of legal experts called “FRALEX” (= FRA Legal Experts).

Links:

Opinion 4.2005 on The right to conscientious objection and the conclusion by EU Member States of concordats with the Holy See (2005)  – full text

A commentary on Opinion 4.2005: J. Cornides, Human Rights Pitted Against Man, International Journal of Human Rights 12.1 (2008): 107-134

The Agency’s first major project: the report on “Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation in the EU Member States” (2009)

This line of continuity became apparent when the FRA, one year after its creation,  issued its first major publication, a report on “Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation in the EU Member States”: the same people used the same strategy for the same purpose. The authors of the Homophobia report, a group called FRALEX (= FRA Legal Experts), were more or less the same who had authored the controversial “Opinion 4.2005”; in particular, the coordination (if not most of the drafting work) was again in the hands of Olivier De Schutter. (It turned out that FRALEX had obtained an exclusive contract with FRA for a duration of  4 years, worth 10 million Euro. In a somewhat strange way, FRA had “outsourced” its key task, the providing of “expertise”…)

Only the subject matter was different: instead of promoting a “right to abortion”, this time the objective was to promote the homosexualist agenda.

Already the choice of the subject is revealing: it shows that, while human rights that enjoy a higher level of credibility are under threat world-wide (including in the EU),  the Agency’s top priority is the establishment of so-called “homosexual rights”. Indeed, it  that the Agency unrestrictedly and unreservedly adheres to the homosexualist ideology, and that its objective is to convince EU Member State that they must legally recognize  same-sex “marriages”, provide for a right of same-sex couples to adopt children, to have access to medically assisted procreation, etc. In this context, FRA plays a pivotal role: it must convince the public that same-sex “marriage”, homosexual adoption, etc. are human rights issues, i.e. that governments have no other choice than to go along with this agenda. Potential opponents are portrayed as being “opposed to human rights”; in this way they can be silenced and it becomes possible to impose the legalization of same-sex “marriage” without too much public debate.

The FRA’s report on “homophobia” serves exactly this purpose. It draws a dramatic picture of rampant “homophobia” all over the EU, and then comes to the conclusion that:

“… international human rights law requires that same-sex couples either have  access to an institution such as registered partnership which provides them with the same advantages as those they would be recognised if they had access to marriage; or that, failing such official recognition, the de facto durable relationships they enter into leads to extending to them such advantages.”

Furthermore, the report argues that the free movement of persons, one of the EU’s four fundamental freedoms, requires EU Member States to give full recognition to same-sex “marriages” concluded abroad, even if such “marriages” are not foreseen within their own legal order.

From a legal point of view, this “expertise” is not only unconvincing, but can only been qualified as a deliberate attempt to mislead the public regarding the true state of international law. What the report passes off as a “requirement of international human rights law” is in fact recognised as such not even in one single country of the world, let alone in one or more EU Member States. This alleged “requirement of international law” is a pure invention of FRA and its “experts”.

Besides that, it is hard to understand how the legal recognition of same-sex “marriages”, in particular if it comes as a result of flimsy “legal expertise” such as FRALEX’, would contribute to reducing so-called “homophobia”. Indeed, this might turn out a counter-productive approach: even where people are not generally hostile to homosexuals they might soon get tired of this kind of propaganda, and reject the idea that all types of sexual relations must be viewed as “equal”. In other words, the report fail to explain how its clumsily concealed hidden agenda, the promotion of same-sex “marriage”, has anything to do with its officially stated purpose, the fight against “homophobia”.

In summary, this report can hardly be considered to constitute serious-minded “expertise”; it is instead a disgusting piece of propaganda that inflicts severe damage on the credibility of the Agency that has published it.

Links:

Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation in the EU Member States: Part I – Legal Analysis (full text)

A commentary on  the FRA’s report on homophodia: J. Cornides, Human Rights Pitted Against Man (II) – The Network is Back , International Journal of Human Rights 14.7 (2010): 1139-1164

The “LGBT Survey” (2013)

 LGBT-europe-surveyWhile its legal assertions around “homophobia” can easily be shown to be completely unfounded, FRA has ventured into the field of social research. The apparent purpose is to make believe that “homophobia” is one of the EU’s major societal problems, and that radical legislative changes are required to address it.

To this end, the Agency has carried out a so-called “LGBT Survey”, its major project for the working years 2012 and 2013. This survey, which has cost EU taxpayers 500.000 Euro (i.e. 5 Euro per response), was carried out by the renowned Gallup Institute – but strangely, its methodology did not comply even with the most basic standards of social research:

– The respondents were “self-selected”, i.e. they did not correspond to a representative sample of the general population (or, given that the survey’s stated purpose was to find out about the experiences of people identifying as “LGBT”, of that sector of the population);

– Instead, the questionnaire was simply placed on the internet, and anyone who wanted could reply to it;

– There was no verification of the identity of respondents, nor was there any firewall to prevent one person from sending in multiple responses; this means that it cannot even be excluded that one particularly motivated person might have responded a thousand times or more, using a computer programme that sends automatic responses;

– The selection of respondents was further distorted by the fact that FRA relied on radical lobby-groups such as ILGA-Europe to mobilize their members to respond to the survey; these lobby-groups, however, can hardly be thought of as representing all people who identify as “LGBT”;

– The questions contained in the questionnaire were highly suggestive; i.e. that it was actually rather difficult to respond to the 75-pages document without stating at least once that one considered to be a victim, or at least a witness, of “LGBT discrimination”;

– In particular, the survey appears to be based on an extremely wide and open-ended concept of “discrimination”; in theory, even a disapproving glance at a couple engaging in (homo)sexual acts in a public space could thus be (very subjectively be qualified as a case of “bullying” or “discrimination”;

With such a methodology, it is unsurprising that the survey could lead to the result that FRA apparently found politically desirable, i.e. to the finding that a strong majority of the “LGBT persons” responding to the survey felt to be “victims of bullying and discrimination”.

The political purpose of this survey was clear from the outset. As the FRA website announced already in 2012, “the results … should set the agenda for years to come”. Since the publication of the reseults in 2013, FRA uses them as an argument to push for the swift adoption of the controversial “General Anti-Discrimination Directive” (although it clearly is outside the Agency’s mandate to lobby for this, or any other, kind of legislation).

A sober, ideologically unbiased, assessment of the survey and its findings will, however, lead to very different conclusions:

– The survey fails to follow a scientiofic methodology;

– It deliberately avoids taking into consideration the opinions of all who do not identify as “LGBT” or similar (i.e. of 99% of the population), as if those opinions and experiences were somehow less important; in this way, it presents a radically distorted image of what Europeans really think about the subject;

– The respondents who have paricipated in the Survey cannot be considered representative even within the segment of society that identifies as “LGBT”;

– The survey thus gives no insight into the opinions and experiences of society at large, nor of LGBT persons in general; like any self-selected survey, it merely provides an insight into the opinions of the self-selected participants;

– all instances of “homophobia” reported in the survey relate, at best, to subjective feelings or experiences, but not to verifiable facts;

– a research based on verifiable facts (for example, on criminal statistics, etc.) would have shown that so-called “LGBT-persons” do not fall victims to aggression, violence, or bullying, than any other group of society.

The LGBT Survey, like the Homophobia report, must thus be qualified as an intellectually disingenuous attempt by FRA to artificially create an “issue” where in reality there isn’t one. “Homophobia” is the non-existing problem, for which the controversial “Anti-Discrimination Directive” purports to be the solution.

Links:

EU LGBT Survey (on FRA website)

EU LGBT Survey – Results at a glance (FRA official publication)

FRA LGBT survey – Questionnaire (pdf)

AE Briefing Paper No 2: The FRA and its LGBT Survey

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