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Putting the Charter of Fundamental Rights into practice

The communication presents the Commission’s strategy for effectively applying the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EU). It reflects on the role of fundamental rights within the legislative process, including in the Commission’s methodology for the preparatory stage of that process, as well as in the implementation of EU law.

ACT

Communication from the Commission of 19 October 2010 – Strategy for the effective implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights by the European Union [COM(2010) 573 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EU) became legally binding. This new status of the charter strengthens the Union’s action on respect for fundamental rights. This communication provides a strategy for implementing the charter in the current legal environment.

The aim of the Commission’s strategy is to ensure the effective application of the fundamental rights set out in the charter. In this respect, the Union itself must be exemplary in order to:

  • enable people living in the Union to enjoy the rights enshrined in the charter;
  • build mutual trust between EU countries;
  • build public confidence in EU policies;
  • improve credibility of EU external action on human rights.

A fundamental rights culture in the Commission

The Commission makes regular checks to ensure that its legislative proposals and acts are compatible with the charter. Nevertheless, it must strengthen these checks within the departments drawing up the proposals and acts, introducing “a culture of fundamental rights” into all stages of the procedure. This is especially important for evaluating the necessity for and proportionality of the proposals, in particular as some rights are absolute (e.g. human dignity, ban on torture, etc.), while some may, under certain circumstances, be subject to limitations.

The Commission has a methodology for ensuring that systematic and thorough checks are carried out regarding respect for fundamental rights in draft proposals during:

  • preparatory consultations;
  • impact assessments;
  • drafting of draft acts.

The Commission also carries out checks to ensure that the charter is reflected in ex post evaluations of EU instruments. However, further efforts need to be made to better apply the methodology in practice. Particularly, it will pay attention to proposals and acts that raise specific issues of compatibility with or aim at promoting a specific fundamental right protected by the charter.

The charter and the legislative process

Since the Commission’s methodology only applies to the preparatory stage of the legislative process, its proposals may be amended by the Council or the European Parliament without systematic checks being carried out on the amendments’ impact on and compatibility with fundamental rights. Consequently, the Commission is willing to assist the other institutions in reviewing their amendments against the charter. In cases where amendments to its proposal do not sufficiently guarantee respect for fundamental rights, the Commission will notify of its opposition to the lowering of protection standards and will take action, including, where applicable, the withdrawal of its proposal. Any draft amendments that may be incompatible with the charter must be dealt with through transparent inter-institutional dialogue.

The charter and EU countries

EU countries have an obligation to comply with the charter only when implementing EU law. The Commission will take steps to enforce respect for fundamental rights in EU countries by:

  • reminding them of this obligation and assisting them in the correct implementation of EU law;
  • launching infringement procedures against an EU country in breach of this obligation.

Information to the public

The public needs to be kept well informed of their rights as enshrined in the charter and of ways to enforce these rights if they are violated, in particular as regards defending the rights of the child. It is essential that the public is aware of the legal remedies available and that it has all the suitable information needed to seek redress. Therefore, the Commission intends to take targeted and tailored measures to tackle any difficulties relating to communication, such as:

  • further information activities on the role and powers of the Union in fundamental rights;
  • actions to ensure that practical information on existing legal remedies is available, in particular through the e-justice portal.

Annual reports on the application of the charter

In order to review progress in implementing the charter and to provide for regular exchanges of views with the European Parliament and the Council, the Commission will draw up annual reports on the application of the charter. It will prepare the reports in close collaboration with all institutions and relevant stakeholders.

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Report on the Application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights [COM (2012) 169 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
Following a Eurobarometer survey which showed respondents across the EU wishing to be better informed about the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, this report reviewed progress in ensuring the effective implementation of the Charter and highlighted important developments from 2011. The report concluded that in 2011 the EU took concrete steps for the effective implementation of the Charter. These steps included:

  • pursuing a rigorous enforcement policy of citizens’ right to free movement;
  • promoting the rights of the child through the adoption of the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child and the adoption of new rules on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography;
  • reinforcing victims’ rights and procedural rights, by proposing a new set of instruments to guarantee that victims are treated with respect and dignity;
  • reiterating the Commission’s firm rejection of all forms and manifestations of xenophobia and racism;
  • contributing to EU competitiveness – the right to an effective remedy before a tribunal is important for the enforcement of EU economic law that contributes to growth. It ensures that enterprises can effectively uphold the rights granted in EU legislation.

The report also acknowledged the important steps taken to prepare the proposal for new EU rules on data protection to be presented in 2012.

Last updated: 05.02.2013
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