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14th Aug 2022

EU commissioner kills off 'undignified' rights charter poem

Justice commissioner Viviane Reding has killed off plans to recast the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as an 80-minute-long epic poem.

Concerned about what she viewed as a frivolous waste of time and money, Ms Reding, who is also responsible for fundamental rights and citizenship, has written a tersely worded letter seen by EUobserver to the director of the Fundamental Rights Agency, Morten Kjoerum, lambasting the plans.

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  • Ms Reding was surprised to read of the FRA's poetry plans (Photo: European Community, 2006)

"The language of the charter is already clear and direct," she wrote. "I do not therefore see what is to be gained by running the initiative you have in mind in order to promote its accessibility to citizens. I rather see the counterproductive risk that the dignity of the charter is undermined."

"This initiative does not provide the added value that is expected from the agency and is not in line with its mandate," she continued, demanding to know how much time and money had been spent on the poetry plans.

EUobserver reported four weeks ago that the FRA had wanted the EU's human rights charter recast as an 80-minute-long epic poem.

The Vienna-based agency had opened a process of contracting a poet to devise a composition based on the articles of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and hire a company of performers to accompany a presentation of the poem with music, a dance interpretation of the piece and "multimedia elements".

The inaugural reading of the poem, whose working title is ‘The Charter in Poems', was to take place at the bloc's 2010 Fundamental Rights Conference in December on the tenth anniversary of the signing of the charter.

It is understood that the commissioner was surprised when she read about the agency's poem project. "It just came out of leftfield. She thought: ‘Is this really how they should be spending their time?" said one EU official.

Ms Reding however said the idea was beyond the mandate of the agency and that it should stick to its main job of analysing the human and civil rights situation in the EU.

"The agency's communication activities should remain directly linked to its core business of data collection."

"There is a clear need for objective, comparable and reliable data on the situation of fundamental rights in the member states. The dissemination of such data is the best contribution that the agency can give to raise awareness about fundamental rights.

Directing the agency to keep her abreast of its communications strategies in the future, she added: "I am ready to assist you in prioritising work."

The ageny's spokesman, Friso Roscam-Abbing, said that the FRA had responded to Ms Reding's correspondence "and will continue to mount activities raising awareness of the charter amongst citizens at the December tenth anniversary conference."

"Our aim is and will remain communicating the charter to citizens, but will not take the form of a poem or any other literary form," he said.

The FRA is now working on a new concept in concert with the commission directly "on an appropriate format."

"We were very flattered by the fantastic media interest in the project and we just hope that the media in the future will pay just a little bit of attention to our very important work regarding citizens' fundamental rights."

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