Slovak MPs reject Ombudswoman’s human rights report

Slovakia’s Public Defender of Rights Mária Patakyová has released a report criticising the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on human rights and freedoms but it did not get parliament’s approval. According to the ombudswoman, the introduction of state quarantine was problematic….

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Briefing – Towards a common EU approach to lifting coronavirus-related restrictions on freedom of movement – 13-07-2021

To reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Member States have taken a wide range of measures, which have significantly affected the free movement of people in the EU. Restrictions on freedom of movement have varied in time and across countries – following generally but not strictly – successive ‘waves’ of coronavirus infections. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the EU and the Member States have been active in developing a coordinated response to the pandemic, starting from emergency measures to mitigate the effects of the sudden introduction of border controls in the early days of the pandemic to establishing common approaches on risk indicators, interoperable contact tracing apps, vaccination and digital certification. This briefing provides an overview of the main restrictions on free movement adopted by the EU and Schengen countries focusing on control measures at the internal borders introduced between March 2020 and July 2021. It then discusses the key steps taken by the EU and the Member States to develop a common approach to lifting restrictions on freedom of movement. The briefing also places the coronavirus-related restrictions of movement in the context of broader efforts to update and strengthen the Schengen system, which has been under stress for at least a decade. This is an updated edition of an EPRS briefing published in November 2020.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Briefing – The financial management of visitor groups to the national parliaments – 08-07-2021

In most Member States, visitor’ groups are not sponsored to visit the national parliament. A visit to the national parliament is free of charge, and all the costs related to the visit, for example travel costs, accommodation and local minor expenses, need to be paid by the visitors themselves.
Germany is the only country which has various kinds of programmes where visitors can be reimbursed. Members of Parliament can invite up to 200 people a year of which the travel costs are partially covered by the German Bundestag. There is also a programme which consists of more days for which all the costs related to travel and accommodation are covered by the German government. The German Bundesrat has a programme in which the 16 federal states can invite people for a visit of multiple days to Berlin. In this case the travel costs and accommodation are paid for by the Bundesrat. For all reimbursements, the rules apply that the receipts and underlying documents need to be provided to the Bundestag and Bundesrat after the visit. All documents and receipts are checked through an ex-post control.
The United Kingdom has a programme in which costs are reimbursed, and this programme is funded by the commercial tours of the parliament. In this case, it can be MPs, Peers or the House of Commons or Lords who can invite visitors who are eligible for reimbursement.
In Hungary, only schools can get reimbursement for their travel costs and the entry fee for the national parliament. All the receipts need to be provided to the visitor service of the parliament.
Some countries do have other schemes in which they provide coverage for schools or costs are covered by the MPs’ own funds.
The Council of the EU does not sponsor visitor groups. All visits are requested by visitors themselves and they need to cover all the costs related to the visit themselves. The questions were also sent to the European Commission but no answer was received.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Highlights – The Global State of Human Rights: High-Level Conference – Subcommittee on Human Rights

High-Level Conference on the Global State of Human Right
The European Parliament and the Global Campus of Human Rights will hold the first Global State of Human Rights conference on 16 July. The event will gather MEPs, including EP Vice Presidents Heidi Hautala and Fabio Castaldo, and Maria Arena, Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, EU Commissioners, Nobel Peace Prize Recipients, Sakharov Prize Laureates, Political and Security Committee Ambassadors, and representatives from international organisations, academics and stakeholders.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Briefing – Re-starting tourism in the EU amid the pandemic – 13-07-2021

Tourism plays an enormously important role in the EU economy and society. It generates foreign exchange, supports jobs and businesses, and drives forward local development and cultural exchanges. It also makes places more attractive, not only as destinations to visit but also as locations to live, work, invest and study. Furthermore, as tourism is closely linked with many other sectors – particularly transport – it also affects the wider economy. The coronavirus pandemic has hit the tourism sector hard. The impact on various tourist destinations in the EU has been asymmetrical and highly localised, reflecting differences in types of tourism on offer, varying travel restrictions, the size of domestic tourism markets, level of exposure to international tourism, and the importance of tourism in the local economy. At the beginning of summer 2021, several EU Member States started to remove certain travel restrictions (such as the requirements for quarantine or testing for fully vaccinated travellers coming from certain countries). However, all continue to apply many sanitary and health measures (such as limits on the number of people in common areas, and cleaning and disinfection of spaces). Such measures and restrictions change in line with the evolving public health situation, sometimes at short notice, making recovery difficult for the sector. The EU and its Member States have provided the tourism sector with financial and other support. Some measures were already adopted in 2020. Others were endorsed only shortly before the beginning of summer 2021. One flagship action has been the speedy adoption of an EU Digital Covid Certificate. This certificate harmonises, at EU level, proof of vaccination, Covid-19 test results and certified recovery from the virus. However, it does not end the patchwork of travel rules. Despite efforts to harmonise travel rules at Council level, Member States still apply different rules to various categories of traveller (such as children or travellers arriving from third countries).

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Briefing – EU-Belarus relations: State of play – Human rights situation and Ryanair flight diversion – 22-07-2021

The falsified presidential elections of August 2020, and the brutal crackdown against peacefully protesting Belarusians, led to the isolation of the Aliaksandr Lukashenka regime. Despite the possibility of starting dialogue with the democratic opposition and Belarusian society, Aliaksandr Lukashenka chose another path, involving continued brutal repression of the country’s citizens. The worsening human rights situation and hijacking of Ryanair flight FR 4978 provoked a response from the EU, including a ban on Belarusian air carriers landing in or overflying the EU, a major extension of the list of people and entities already subject to sanctions, and the introduction of sanctions on key sectors of the Belarusian economy. The EU policy also demonstrates a readiness to support a future democratic Belarus. In this respect, the European Commission presented the outline of a comprehensive plan of economic support for democratic Belarus, worth up to €3 billion. The European Parliament is playing an active part in shaping the EU’s response. Parliament does not recognise Lukashenka’s presidency and is speaking out on human rights abuses in Belarus. The Belarusian democratic opposition, which was awarded the 2020 Sakharov Prize, is frequently invited to speak for the Belarusian people in the European Parliament.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

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