Increasing publicity at three
120. The Communication contemplates the public
being informed at three levels. First, the Communication itself
is a published document. Second, impact assessments and explanatory
memoranda will be publicly available. They should alert the public
as to how specific proposals address human rights concerns. Finally,
at the pre-legislative consultation stage, the Commission will
draw attention to the rights set out in the Charter and invite
interested parties to say what concerns about human rights they
121. Accordingly, at several stages in the development
of any particular policy or proposal which might have an impact
on fundamental human rights, publicity will be given to what is
happening and interested members of the public, including individuals
and NGOs, should have the opportunity to make their comments and
seek to influence the Commission. Dr Ladenburger said: "Certainly
one hope connected to this Communication is that any such contributions
will be encouraged and intensified, and also that as public knowledge
about this internal mechanism will spread out beyond those NGOs
that are specialising in human rights concerns, this will encourage
more widely members of civil society to rely on the Charter and
on this mechanism" (Q 52).
122. The Commission's proposal to give extra
publicity to its actions was generally welcomed. However, some
witnesses thought the Commission could go further. ILPA expressed
disappointment with some aspects of Commission consultation exercises.
Professor Guild: "I think that leaves us with constantly
having to reassess the mechanisms by which consultation with civil
society takes place in the drafting of legislation" (Q 102).
There was even less room to influence the Commission at the later
stages: "the Commission officials responsible for shepherding
it through its legislative process are already deep in the negotiations
with the Parliament and with the Council" (Q 103).
123. Dr Metcalfe, for JUSTICE, contrasted the
domestic position: "in the United Kingdom, the human rights
organisations have a standing four-monthly meeting with the Minister
for Human Rights in the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
It is not necessarily an ideal arrangement, but it is nonetheless
a useful step in having regular contact between human rights groups
and the Executive. It is possible that something similar could
be arranged in relation to the European Union having regular meetings
with the Commissioners possibly" (Q 104).
124. There is no doubt that the Communication
is an improvement on the 2001 Decision, but it would have been
even better had it provided practical ideas and means for improving
communication with outsiders and enabling them to have an input.
To encourage assertion of rights is the aim, but it is not best
achieved by anything in the Communication. There need to be clearer
mechanisms for NGOs and others to be able to identify problems
and, in the language of the Communication, "assert their
fundamental rights" in the preparation and passage of EU
legislation. This is something to which we would urge the Commission
to give further consideration.
Reviewing the Communication
125. The Communication is silent on how the Commission
might monitor the effects of the new Communication within the
Commission itself. Might some independent group of experts provide
an annual report to the President? Or might this be another possible
job for the Fundamental Rights Agency?
126. Baroness Ashton of Upholland agreed that
this was an issue which should be taken up with the Commission.
But the Government would want to establish what the Commission
was intending to do and also whether the Council would be looking
at the matter, perhaps on the basis of a report from the Commission
or in discussion with the Parliament or the LIBE Committee (Q 123).
127. We welcome the Government's positive
approach to the need to monitor application of the Communication
by the Commission. Should the opportunity arise, particularly
during the United Kingdom Presidency, we urge the Government to
initiate a discussion in the Council, drawing attention to the
importance of the Communication for the standing of EU legislation
and inviting the Commission to produce an annual report on the
working of the Communication.
55 Communication, at para 30. Back
Communication, at para 31. Back
Communication, at para 32. Back