Brussels, 12 December 2007
On the occasion of the signing of the Charter today, the President of the European Commission, Mr José Manuel Barroso, said that by signing and proclaiming the Charter, the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission were publicly signalling their indelible wish to make it legally binding on the Union's institutions. As a result, citizens' rights would be strengthened in such crucial areas as human dignity, fundamental freedoms, equality, solidarity, citizenship and justice. By inserting a reference to the Charter into the Treaty to be signed tomorrow in Lisbon, he said, the EU was taking European integration one significant step further.
The Charter will usefully complement other international instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the EU is also likely to become a party.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights was initially solemnly proclaimed by the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission at the Nice European Council on 7 December 2000, but this was merely a political commitment carrying no binding legal effect. In the context of the work on the European Convention and the 2003-2004 Intergovernmental Conference, the Charter was adapted - in particular as regards its general provisions – with a view to making it legally binding. This approach was confirmed at the European Council of June 2007 during the negotiations on the mandate for the Intergovernmental Conference and during the Conference itself.
Article 1(8) of the Treaty of Lisbon provides that Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union is to be replaced by the following:
"The Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 7 December 2000, as adapted at Strasbourg, on 12 December 2007, which shall have the same legal value as the Treaties.
The provisions of the Charter shall not extend in any way the competences of the Union as defined in the Treaties.
The rights, freedoms and principles in the Charter shall be interpreted in accordance with the general provisions of Title VII of the Charter governing its interpretation and application and with due regard to the explanations referred to in the Charter, that set out the sources of those provisions."
The Charter as endorsed in 2007, together with its updated explanations, will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Article 51 stipulates that "The provisions of this Charter are addressed to the institutions, bodies and organs of the Union with due regard for the principle of subsidiarity and to the Member States only when they are implementing Union law".
Three other texts of the 2007 Intergovernmental Conference relate to the Charter: Protocol No 7 on the application of the Charter to Poland and the United Kingdom, Declaration No 51 by Poland on the Charter and Declaration No 53 by Poland on the Protocol concerning the application of the Charter to Poland and the United Kingdom. The special arrangements agreed with the United Kingdom and Poland have enabled the binding nature of the Charter to be maintained and for it to be applied in full to the other 25 Member States.