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Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights recognises a range of personal, civil, political, economic and social rights of EU citizens and residents, enshrining them into EU law.

In June 1999, the Cologne European Council concluded that the fundamental rights applicable at European Union (EU) level should be consolidated in a charter to give them greater visibility. The heads of state/government aspired to include in the charter the general principles set out in the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights and those derived from the constitutional traditions common to EU countries. In addition, the charter was to include the fundamental rights that apply to EU citizens as well as the economic and social rights contained in the Council of Europe Social Charter and the Community Charter of Fundamental Social Rights of Workers. It would also reflect the principles derived from the case law of the Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.

The charter was drawn up by a convention consisting of a representative from each EU country and the European Commission, as well as members of the European Parliament and national parliaments. It was formally proclaimed in Nice in December 2000 by the European Parliament, Council and Commission.

In December 2009, with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the charter was given binding legal effect equal to the Treaties. To this end, the charter was amended and proclaimed a second time in December 2007.

Content

The charter brings together in a single document rights previously found in a variety of legislative instruments, such as in national and EU laws, as well as in international conventions from the Council of Europe, the United Nations (UN) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). By making fundamental rights clearer and more visible, it creates legal certainty within the EU.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights contains a preamble and 54 Articles, grouped in seven chapters:

  • chapter I: dignity (human dignity, the right to life, the right to the integrity of the person, prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, prohibition of slavery and forced labour);
  • chapter II: freedoms (the right to liberty and security, respect for private and family life, protection of personal data, the right to marry and found a family, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of the arts and sciences, the right to education, freedom to choose an occupation and the right to engage in work, freedom to conduct a business, the right to property, the right to asylum, protection in the event of removal, expulsion or extradition);
  • chapter III: equality (equality before the law, non-discrimination, cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, equality between men and women, the rights of the child, the rights of the elderly, integration of persons with disabilities);
  • chapter IV: solidarity (workers’ right to information and consultation within the undertaking, the right of collective bargaining and action, the right of access to placement services, protection in the event of unjustified dismissal, fair and just working conditions, prohibition of child labour and protection of young people at work, family and professional life, social security and social assistance, health care, access to services of general economic interest, environmental protection, consumer protection);
  • chapter V: citizens’ rights (the right to vote and stand as a candidate at elections to the European Parliament and at municipal elections, the right to good administration, the right of access to documents, European Ombudsman, the right to petition, freedom of movement and residence, diplomatic and consular protection);
  • chapter VI: justice (the right to an effective remedy and a fair trial, presumption of innocence and the right of defence, principles of legality and proportionality of criminal offences and penalties, the right not to be tried or punished twice in criminal proceedings for the same criminal offence);
  • chapter VII: general provisions.

Scope

The charter applies to the European institutions, subject to the principle of subsidiarity, and may under no circumstances extend the powers and tasks conferred on them by the Treaties. The charter also applies to EU countries when they implement EU law.

If any of the rights correspond to rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, the meaning and scope of those rights is to be the same as defined by the convention, though EU law may provide for more extensive protection. Any of the rights derived from the common constitutional traditions of EU countries must be interpreted in accordance to those traditions.

Protocol (No) 30 to the Treaties on the application of the charter to Poland and the United Kingdom restricts the interpretation of the charter by the Court of Justice and the national courts of these two countries, in particular regarding rights relating to solidarity (chapter IV).

Last updated: 06.05.2010
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