As of 2020, the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights is twenty years old. This offers a nice moment to celebrate these fundamental rights, highlight their value and explore how they may help us to shape the future.
The charter brings together all the personal, civil, political, economic and social rights enjoyed by people within the EU in a single text, which has been legally binding since the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2009. Since then, society has not stood still but rather changed through social progress and technological developments. New challenges have also emerged, not just during the current pandemic but also due to growing nationalism, populism and the ever more urgent call for climate action. Looking to the future, how can we keep updating our fundamental rights to meet these threats, and in what novel ways can rights be instrumentalised for a better future?
On this page, we invite you to explore European fundamental rights through a current and future lens. First, six young Amsterdam artists have created digital artworks to illustrate their perspectives of the different chapters in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Second, we highlight examples of innovative ways of using fundamental rights for materials and future generations.
This page is part of the Connect Europe project, in which Network Democracy partners with six civil society organisations based in different European countries to celebrate and discuss our fundamental rights. We are looking at the charter from various perspectives and discussing its relevance today. Have a look at the website to learn more about the activities in the other countries: www.eurights.org
Netwerk Democratie, supported by European Cultural Foundation, invited six young Amsterdam-based artists to share their creative viewpoint on the six chapters of the European Charter. Here you can browse through their digital artworks and read about their perspectives.
Loving hands that surround the world and humans. A human with a soul consisting of flesh and blood who needs to be cared for and handled with caution, no immoral touch is allowed. When I was born I was given a golden bracelet with my name on to celebrate a new life, with that dignity was given to my name.
Dignity is something that is inherent the moment a person is born, it is not given by someone else neither does it have to be earned.
Dignity is a fact when brought on earth as a human being and is therefore sacred, untouchable and has no equivalent other than the dignity of other individuals. It is given to you in the same way it was given to others.
Dignity is to recognize that humanity exists within all of us. Humanity has been granted to a person when it was brought to this world and is in the core of our being. Without dignity, one is harming humanity and therefore themselves.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Ha Lan Nguyen Dinh is a Dutch-born creative and student with Vietnamese heritage. Besides her study in the (bio)medical sciences she also finds herself immersed in other disciplines, of which one is making art through various means such as painting and drawing . She strives for integration of the arts and sciences in a harmonious way, as she believes those two can elevate each other. From the fundamentals of atoms to the freedom of an individual mind – in this universe matter and mind can be connected in unexpected ways.
The existence of this charter is very important, even though it could need an update by using a gender-neutral term such as they/them instead of he/she. Every human being deserves the freedoms laid out in the charter but yet unfortunately in this world, and in this Europe is not exempt, these freedoms are not granted to everyone. Especially, people of colour, women, immigrants, people of certain religions, refugees and queer people but also people with occupations such as sex work get to feel that on a daily base but continue to fight for their rights. Also, keeping in mind the many people who are fleeing and coming to Europe for safety, security and protection, but also mourn and pay respect to the many people that have died at the European borders. Therefore, I created an artwork that focuses on people that are still fighting for freedom, keeping in mind that their work and dedication will pay off because I imagine a future where everyone can enjoy the basic freedoms presented in this charter.
Who is in this image?
When I hear or read the words Freedom I instantly have to think of the people who have fought for the freedoms of many. To show this I placed people like Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis and Malala Yousafzai.
Even though the environment was not mentioned in the chapter of Freedom, I still wanted to pay respect to those, and especially the young generation, who are fighting for the freedom of our planet (free of capitalistic exploitation). This is represented through plants and flowers and following young heroines: Autumn Peltier, Greta Thunberg, Leah Namugerwa, Lilly Platt.
As I am currently based in Amsterdam I found it necessary to include people who are fighting for human rights in Amsterdam and are positively influencing the people live: Naomi Pieter, Xiomara Virdó/Xena Vineyard (picture by Isabell Schulz), George Rallis, Raziyah and Lilith. Refugee boat by Massimo Sestini/Eyevine
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Mercikubik (aka Mercedes Mercedes-Mercedes) draws her inspiration from the people in her surroundings, especially from family, friends and ancestors. Her work and the projects often focus on themes like connectivity, wxmanhood and cultural heritage, while also exploring the random, wavy and abstractness of humans, human life and the human brain. Interconnection of all beings, nature and space are always at the back of her mind.
As I read the charter I felt like it was lacking in a way, not necessarily in terms of content, more so in its impact. This could be partly because I wasn’t even aware of its existence before this project. Many of whom I talked to about it, though the concept immediately made sense, had also not known the charter or its content before.
The charter does not have full horizontal effect. For example the ECJ ruled that article 27 of the EU Charter wasn’t clear and specific enough to allow for application between private parties. However, article 21 (on non- discrimination) of the CFR was considered sufficient enough in itself to exist as a right for individuals to invoke among themselves. Yet when we look at article 21 in particular, I don’t see discrimination being brought to justice on all grounds mentioned in the charter. In fact the Dutch have been able to install the niqab ban which means that persons wearing the niqab are not allowed to enter public spaces.
These rights should play a more prominent role in legislation in order for our society to kick its toxic beliefs, systems and behaviours.
What’s also important is for those of us who share dreams of a society in which these rights are fully embodied to celebrate these and exchange them so the ideology grows.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
The Earth, its issues, its beauty and its peculiarities as perceived by a woman of mixed cultural origin. Sandy decided to express what roams through her mind as a means to define a personal purpose to her being alive.
The artwork is called ‘manus’.
Solidarity in Europe can be a surreal thought.
To better understand the concept, I illustrated the diverse faces that are constructing the continental limb known as Europe.
A hand moving as needed, where needed.
A solid compilation.
New faces will emerge but the hand will always remain.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Rossel Chaslie is a visual artist that is influenced by art movements such as surrealism, absurdism, and Afrofuturism. More recently, Rossel likes to experiment with racial topics and uses art as a way to reflect, express, and communicate his world. One of the characteristics of Rossel’s creative work is the variation in art style and subject matter. That is a result of his interest in all kinds of art forms and inspiration sources ranging from; culture, racism, and history to hip-hop, comedy, and sci-fi fantasy.
I immediately felt inspired to do a performance to demonstrate our European citizens rights. I wanted to play specifically with the right of free movement and the right to be heard. In the drawing which is seen in the middle of the video I visualized the right to be documented and to protest and added pictures of the 5 other artists chosen to make an artwork. I wanted to show us, our faces and our bodies. We are the future and we all want to move freely and to be heard, do you hear me?
Video filmed by Mercedes Mercedes Mercedes, edit by MERU
The saxophone is played by a local street artists in the Museumpark, Amsterdam.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
MERU is an independent multidisciplinary artista who makes music and visual arts.
Playfully swirling across genres and expressions such as poetry, vocals, beat-making, playing acoustic instruments, video, drawings, painting and whatever creative outlet feels good for the concept and ideas.
“JUSTICE” is an artwork that renders the universality of the appeal to justice. Even though oftentimes judicially things may appear black and white, this artwork aims to bring forward the importance of the collective in the carrying out of justice, as well as the individual responsibility in relation to the collective. When within the collective, each and every individual sees and speaks of Justice, when morality is a driver of values based on solidarity, equality, freedoms, dignity and citizens’ rights without prejudice, ‘Justice’ is exercised both in a moral level as well as in a constitutional level. “These eyes see, these mouths speak of: JUSTICE” demonstrates the collective and individual level in which justice is to be carried.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Eleni Anastassiou, is a Cypriot artist based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. From a very young age she expressed her interest in the arts, always drawing on random pieces of paper and taking pictures of things that she thought were interesting. Now, Eleni occupies herself with a number of different mediums such as analog photography, video editing, collage-making and drawing while studying Humanities at Amsterdam University College.
People obviously have rights. But what rights do the materials that make our lives possible have? Nothing has ever been laid down on that subject. If we, mankind, would treat materials in a just manner, similar to the manner in which people should be treated, we would create a world with a future. Turntoo took the initiative to draw up the ‘Universal Declaration of Material Rights’ [link theuniversaldeclarationofmaterialrights.org] together with experts from various fields. The declaration was matter of a public debate during the Carnegie Peace Conversations in September 2018 and has been submitted to the United Nations on December 10th 2018. The initiators are currently looking for other individuals or organisations who would like to support the idea of the Universal Declaration of Material Rights. Here you can download the declaration, and share it to inspire and encourage debate:
Rights of Future Generations
Netwerk Democratie interviewed artist Sissel Marie Tonn and legal scholar Laura Burgers on the rights of future generations. In the face of climate change, how can we create space for the representation of future generations in the present, as well as explore the possibility of advocating for the rights of nature within our legal system? Sissel Marie Tonn discusses her artistic research in Sliedrecht, where she observed the effects of permanent hydrophobic chemicals spread by the Teflon industry. Additionally, Laura Burgers explains how future generations and the right to a healthy environment are already part of our fundamental rights.
The interview was created as part of the Parliament of the Future, in which a group of young Amsterdammers explore five European topics, such as climate justice and the future of education, in relation to their daily life in the city. Through discussion, they create a Manifesto for the Future. Have a look at www.parlementvandetoekomst.nl