In 2007, the European Union founded a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights – FRA (Fundamental Rights Agency) to provide institutions and EU Member States independent assistance and expertise in the field of fundamental rights. The headquarters is located in Vienna, operating with 113 employees and having 21.2 million euro at its disposal; 73 per cent of the budget is spent on operational activities.
In addition to its supporting role, the FRA has performed several pan-European studies in individual areas (violence against women, discrimination based on various personal circumstances, hate speech, etc.). These studies are an important contribution to understanding and addressing negative social phenomena, such as hate speech or discrimination.
The FRA’s field of work includes diverse issues associated with many personal circumstances, such as gender, religion, political belief, sexual orientation or identity, disability, etc. Furthermore, the FRA has also issued manuals for lawyers on European Union legislation and jurisprudence. The manuals also feature topics such as asylum, border control, immigration, data protection and the fight against discrimination.
The agency organises annual conferences on fundamental rights, which are attended by hundreds of experts and other stakeholders, both from EU institutions and national authorities. Every year, one of the issues is in the forefront, such as hate speech, immigration, children’s rights.
Within the EU, FRA cooperates with the European Parliament, the European Commission, the EU Council and EU agencies. Outside the EU, it cooperates with the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations. At the national level, it cooperates with governmental authorities, as well as connects and organises the exchange of good practice between representatives of Member States.
The Fundamental Rights Platform – FRP is used for building dialogue with civil society. Around four hundred civil society organisations work within the FRP from all the EU, which meet annually and cover diverse players from various areas of operation.
The FRA’s multiannual framework of work areas includes: access to judicial protection, assistance to victims of crime, including compensation, digital society, and the respect for privacy and the protection of personal data, Roma integration, judicial cooperation (except in criminal matters), children’s rights, discrimination, immigration and integration of immigrants, visa and border control, racism, xenophobia and intolerance.
Expressing opinions to the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council of the EU also belongs to FRA’s working areas. This includes research or opinions on specific areas not necessarily in the FRA’s work programme. Member States may also request comparative data from it, e.g. for use in preparing national policies. Countries and other institutions often rely on information provided by the FRA.