Esquerra MEP Diana Riba: “The EU Fundamental Rights Report is a serious shot across the bows for Spain”

The report approved in committee on Thursday 17 November at the European Parliament criticizes police violence, the sentence against the Catalan political prisoners and a lack of judicial independence and separation of powers in several Member States

The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) yesterday approved the Report on the Situation of Fundamental Rights in the European Union (EU) for the years 2018 and 2019. Esquerra MEP Diana Riba, who brokered the report on behalf of the Greens/EFA group, welcomed the adoption of the draft as a “broad picture of the state of fundamental rights throughout the EU, which should serve as an instrument to improve democracy, human rights and freedoms in the Europe of the future.” She also warned that, despite the efforts of Spanish parties Ciudadanos, the People’s Party and VOX to dilute the text, drop amendments relating to the repression of Catalonia, and to press for specific countries not to be identified, the end result “is explicit” and signifies a “shot across the bows for Spain.” The final report is to be formally approved in next week’s parliamentary session.

Ms Riba first pointed out that at the beginning of the text the rapporteur of the report, MEP Clare Daly directly decried “police brutality against protesters in several countries” as well as the existence of “court sentences exceeding ten years imprisonment for allowing democratic plebiscites.” Ms Daly even asks in the first part of the report “why the European Parliament denounces violations of the rule of law in some countries while remaining silent on others.”

Among the aspects Diana Riba has worked on in recent months for inclusion in the report were the lack of independence of the judiciary and the dubious separation of powers in certain Member States of the Union. In this regard, the text approved today is ambitious and includes several amendments advanced by Esquerra’s MEP that censure “the use of the judicial system for political purposes that seek to damage, delegitimize and silence political dissent” while deploring that “political influence in the judiciary has often prevented it from fulfilling its task of independent control.”

Diana Riba was also very pleased to have secured an entire section dedicated to the prison system, a first in a report of this kind. The amendments introduced by Ms Riba in this domain set “the abuse of pre-trial detention” as a major fundamental rights issue in Europe. The draft recalls that this should always be an “exceptional measure” which should only be applied when “strictly necessary, proportionate, and for the shortest time possible.”

The report also addresses at the behest of the MEP issues such as the increase in gender-based violence; the continued violation of women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights; persecution of artists; and restrictions on the right of assembly and demonstration, amongst others.

According to Ms Riba, the result of months of discussions has resulted in an “ambitious, detailed, forceful and explicit report that shows that, in many parts of Europe, European values are more of a catchphrase than a reality.” However, she was convinced that the report “will help to visualize the current deficits and help to find the right political solutions to improve the situation of fundamental rights in both Spain and Europe.”