Brussels, 19 October 2010
European Commission adopts strategy to ensure respect for EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
The European Commission today adopted a strategy to ensure that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – legally binding since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty – is effectively implemented. The Commission will verify that all EU laws are in compliance with the Charter at each stage of the legislative process – from the early preparatory work in the Commission to the adoption of draft laws by the European Parliament and the Council, and then in their application by EU Member States. The Commission will provide information to citizens on when it can intervene in fundamental rights issues and will publish an Annual Report on the Charter’s application to monitor the progress achieved. The Commission is thereby responding to calls from the European Parliament.
"The Charter is a reflection of our common values and constitutional heritage," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. “The Charter must be the compass for all EU policies. The European Commission, and notably its Justice Department, will be very vigilant in ensuring that the Charter is upheld in all proposals for EU legislation, in all amendments introduced by the Council and by the European Parliament, as well as by Member States when they implement EU laws. The strategy adopted by the Commission today is an important step in creating a European fundamental rights culture."
With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty (1 December 2009), the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding on the EU's institutions and on Member States when they are implementing EU law. The Charter entrenches all the rights found in the European Convention on Human Rights as well as other rights and principles resulting from the common constitutional traditions of the EU Member States, the case law of the European Court of Justice and other international instruments. The Charter is a very modern codification and includes "third generation" fundamental rights, such as data protection, guarantees on bioethics and transparent administration.
Under the strategy, the Commission explains the steps it can take to ensure that the EU has an exemplary fundamental rights record and to improve the public's understanding of fundamental rights protection in Europe by:
1. Guaranteeing that the EU is beyond reproach in upholding fundamental rights
2. Improving information for citizens
3. Monitoring progress
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union 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. At that time, it did not have binding legal effect. Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union, as modified by the Lisbon Treaty, provides that the Charter is legally binding and has the same legal value as the Treaties; this means in particular that EU legislation that is in violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter could be annulled by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Treaty also states that the Charter’s provisions shall not extend the EU’s competences as defined in the Treaties. Article 51 of the Charter states 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."
For the first time, members of the College of Commissioners swore a solemn declaration to uphold the Charter as well as the Treaties in May this year (IP/10/487).
For more information
Today's Communication is available at the Justice Directorate-General Newsroom:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship: