Strasbourg, 7 July 2010
European Commission and Council of Europe kick off joint talks on EU's accession to the Convention on Human Rights
Official talks started today on the European Union's accession to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, marked the beginning of this joint process at a meeting in Strasbourg. They discussed how to move the process forward so that citizens can swiftly benefit from stronger and more coherent fundamental rights protection in Europe.
“Today is a truly historic moment. We are now putting in place the missing link in Europe's system of fundamental rights protection, guaranteeing coherence between the approaches of the Council of Europe and the European Union," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "The EU has an important role to play in further strengthening the Convention's system of fundamental rights. We already have our own Charter of Fundamental Rights, which represents the most modern codification of fundamental rights in the world. This is a very good precondition for a successful meeting of the minds between the negotiation partners."
“The European Convention on Human Rights is the essential reference for human rights protection for all of Europe. By accepting to submit the work of its institutions to the same human rights rules and the same scrutiny which apply to all European democracies, the European Union is sending a very powerful message – that Europe is changing – and that the most influential and the most powerful are ready to accept their part of responsibility for that change and in that change,” said Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
The EU's accession to the ECHR will place the EU on the same footing as its Member States with regard to the system of fundamental rights protection supervised by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It will allow for the EU's voice to be heard when cases come before the Strasbourg Court. With accession, the EU would become the 48th signatory of the ECHR. The EU would have its own judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Accession will also provide a new possibility of remedies for individuals. They will be able to bring complaints – after they have exhausted domestic remedies – about the alleged violation of fundamental rights by the EU before the European Court of Human Rights.
The EU’s accession to the ECHR is required under Article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty and foreseen by Article 59 of the ECHR as amended by the Protocol 14.
On 17 March, the Commission proposed negotiation Directives for the EU's accession to the ECHR (IP/10/291). On 4 June, EU Justice Ministers gave the Commission the mandate to conduct the negotiations on their behalf. On 26 May, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe gave an ad-hoc mandate to its Steering Committee for Human Rights to elaborate with the EU the necessary legal instrument for the EU’s accession to the ECHR.
As of today, negotiators from the Commission and experts from the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Human Rights will meet regularly to work on the accession agreement. At the end of the process, the agreement on accession will be concluded between the 47 current contracting parties of the ECHR and the EU (acting by unanimous decision of the Council of the EU, the European Parliament, which has to be fully informed of all stages of the negotiations, must also give its consent). The conclusion decision needs ratification by the EU Member States. The accession agreement will also have to be ratified by all 47 contracting parties to the ECHR in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements, including by those who are also EU Member States. Both sides are committed to a smooth and swift conclusion of the talks, allowing the accession to take place as early as possible.
For more information
Homepage of Viviane Reding, Vice-President and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship:
Homepage of Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe: http://www.coe.int/T/SECRETARYGENERAL/SG/