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Fundamental rights: challenges and achievements in 2012

Rising unemployment rates, austerity measures, public protest, social unrest and constitutional conflict all captured headlines across the European Union (EU) in 2012. The crisis that the EU has been facing since 2007 transcends issues of finance, with implications for democratic legitimacy and the rule of law, and therefore also for the respect of fundamental rights. This year’s Focus section therefore looks at ‘The European Union as a Community of values: safeguarding fundamental rights in times of crisis’, thereby placing the EU’s fundamental rights landscape, examined in last year’s Focus section, in context.

What follows is a detailed report on developments in legislation, policy making and the situation on the ground in the fundamental rights field. The report throws light on key developments at both EU and national level in areas such as: the negotiation of the EU asylum instruments, the reform of the EU’s data protection framework, the further ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as developments with regard to the ‘Horizontal Directive’, the fight against crimes motivated by racism, xenophobia and related intolerances, or the adoption of an EU Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime.

Despite important positive developments, this Annual report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) also identifies many challenges that must be recognised, analysed and efficiently addressed. It also points out promising practices. This, however, should not disguise the fact that much of what is reported is less than promising and requires the attention and concerted effort of all those within the EU who are concerned about the robust fulfilment of fundamental rights for all.