The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: 5 year anniversary
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights has been in force for five years. This presents a good opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved.
The Fundamental Rights Agency tells us that since the Charter was formally declared in 2000 the EU fundamental rights landscape has noticeably evolved. For example there is now: a First Vice-President in the European Commission who oversees fundamental rights; a much stronger European Parliament that promotes respect for fundamental rights; a Council of the EU working group that specifically looks at fundamental rights developments; a specialist agency, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), that provides evidence-based advice on the rights of the Charter; checklists to ensure that EU legislation respects fundamental rights; greater interaction with committees in national parliaments responsible for the fundamental rights; and EU programmes that earmark funds for fundamental rights-related projects not only outside but also within the EU. In addition, the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights is nearing completion.
The Charter has also added value by being a comprehensive list of rights that also reflects current concerns – such as the protection of personal data, an issue of greater concern in the wake of increased usage of information and communication technologies; human cloning; non-discrimination also including protected grounds like genetic features; the right to good administration or rights which protect issues of global concern, such as the right to a healthy environment. Globally speaking, the Charter is remarkable as it combines a whole range of civil, political, economic and social rights and certain “third generation” rights in one single legally-binding text.
The creation of such a comprehensive list of rights also serves as a point of reference, as well as of inspiration, to all layers of government. This can be seen in the increased number of references to the Charter in EU and national case law, underlining the practical value of the Charter and its relevance to ordinary citizens throughout the EU. “The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights has provided added momentum to the advancement of fundamental rights across the EU,” said FRA Director Morten Kjaerum, celebrating five years since the Charter entered into force on 1 December 2009. “It has helped drive change that has led to a substantially increased fundamental rights culture within the EU institutions. The EU and Member States should build on this momentum to continue to make a difference to the daily lives of people in Europe.”
To celebrate this anniversary, the FRA has developed two useful tools: the Charter App and Charterpedia. The Charter App enables users to access the full text of the Charter on their mobile phone and provides regular updates on related EU and international law, European Court of Justice (ECJ) case law and a selection of European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and national case law that refers directly to one of the Charter Articles, and related FRA publications. It gives up to date information about the rights protected by the Charter. If you need more in-depth information about these rights and how they are protected, have a look at Charterpedia. It shows how the rights protected in the Charter relate to EU, international and national bodies of law. This is useful because it points you to all relevant laws you may use when building a legal case.
These tools provide European citizens with easy access to the Charter. What is more, Charterpedia is a useful resource even for those who wish to research or make a claim about a potential human rights violation that is not perpetrated by the EU. While the Charter only applies to EU institutions and member states implementing EU law, Charterpedia shows how fundamental rights are protected by several bodies of law that apply to member states more generally, such as the European Convention for Human Rights.