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A Europe of rights and values

Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect for human rights: these are the core values of the EU which are set out at the beginning of the Treaty of Lisbon. They are common to all Member States, and any European country wishing to become a member of the Union must respect them.

Promoting these values, as well as peace and the well-being of the Union’s peoples are now the main objectives of the Union. These general objectives are supplemented by a list of more detailed ones, including the promotion of social justice and protection, and the fight against social exclusion and discrimination.

The Treaty of Lisbon makes significant advances regarding the protection of fundamental rights. It opens the way for the Union to seek accession to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

In addition, the Treaty of Lisbon guarantees the enforcement of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The EU therefore acquires for itself a catalogue of civil, political, economic and social rights, which are legally binding not only on the Union and its institutions, but also on the Member States as regards the implementation of Union law. The Charter lists all the fundamental rights under six major headings: Dignity, Freedom, Equality, Solidarity, Citizenship and Justice. It also proclaims additional rights not contained in the European Human Rights Convention, such as data protection, bioethics and the right to good administration. It reaffirms important steps to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of gender, race and colour. It also mentions social rights applied within companies, e.g. workers’ rights to be informed, to negotiate and take collective action – in other words, the right to strike.

Last but not least, the Treaty of Lisbon introduces a new right, which enables you to have your say on European matters: a petition with at least one million signatures obtained from a number of Member States can be sent to the Commission inviting it to take a legislative initiative.

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