To ensure the implementation of fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter, the Commission has published, since 2010, an annual report on the application of the Charter.
Annual report on the application of the Charter
The annual report monitors progress in the areas where the EU has powers to act, showing how the Charter has been taken into account in actual cases, notably when new EU legislation is proposed.
The annual report is based on the actions of EU institutions and the analysis of letters from the general public, and on questions and petitions from the European Parliament.
The annual report provides an opportunity for an annual exchange of views with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.
It is aimed at helping EU citizens determine where they need to turn to when they believe that their fundamental rights have been violated by an EU institution or by a national authority implementing EU law.
Newly Adopted: the 2014 Report on the application of the Charter
On 8 May 2015, the 2014 Report on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights was adopted. Additional information on the 2014 report is available from the European Commission's Press Release Database.
Main findings of the 2013 Report on the application of the Charter
The 4th annual report on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental rights (available in multiple language versions) provides a comprehensive overview of how fundamental rights have been successfully implemented in the EU over the past year. It highlights, for example, guidance given by the European Court of Justice (‘the Court’) to national judges on the applicability of the Charter when implementing EU law at national level (see the Åkerberg Fransson judgment). It also shows how the rights enshrined in the Charter are taken into careful consideration by the EU institutions when proposing and adopting EU legislation, while Member States are only bound by the Charter when they implement EU law. Finally, the report gives examples of where fundamental rights enshrined in the EU Charter played a role in infringement proceedings launched by the Commission against Member States.
The report also reveals that there is a high interest among citizens in fundamental rights issues: in 2013 the issues most frequently raised by citizens in their correspondence with Europe Direct Contact Centres were free movement and residence (48% of the total number of enquiries), consumer rights issues (12%), judicial cooperation (11%), questions related to citizenship (10%), anti-discrimination and social rights (5%) and data protection (4%).
Two ways of making the Charter a reality
1. Commission action to promote the Charter
Where the EU has competence to act, the Commission can propose EU legislation that defends the rights and principles of the Charter.
Examples of Commission proposals in 2013 include:
- Five legal measures to boost safeguards for EU citizens in criminal proceedings. These include measures to guarantee respect for the presumption of innocence of all citizens suspected or accused by police and judicial authorities, the right to be present at trial, making sure children have special safeguards when facing criminal proceedings and guaranteeing access to provisional legal aid at the early stages of proceedings and especially for people subject to a European Arrest Warrant. There was a need to balance criminal law measures already in place (such as the European Arrest Warrant) with legal instruments that give strong defence rights for citizens ¬ in line with the Charter. Strong EU-wide standards for procedural rights and victims’ rights are central to strengthening mutual trust in the European Justice area. In this regard, the adoption of a Directive on the right of access to a lawyer in 2013 constitutes another milestone.
Roma integration is another area where the EU continues to reinforce protection of equal rights and promote the adoption of positive measures. The Commission reviews progress of national Roma integration strategies and outlined first results in the 28 EU countries. In addition, all Member States committed to improve the economic and social integration of Roma communities, through the unanimous adoption of a Council Recommendation that the Commission had put forward in June 2013.
Examples of enforcement action (infringements) in 2013 include:
- Legal action to ensure that Austria's data protection authority is no longer part of the Federal Chancellery but has its own budget and staff and is thus independent. Hungary took measures, in March 2013, to comply with the Court's judgement on the forced early retirement of 274 judges.
2. Courts relying on the Charter
The European Union Courts have increasingly referred to the Charter in their decisions and have further clarified its applicability. The number of decisions of EU Courts (Court of Justice, general Court and Civil service Tribunal) quoting the Charter in their reasoning went from 43 in 2011 to 87 in 2012. In 2013, 114 decisions quoted the EU Charter, which is almost three times the number of cases of 2011.
Likewise, national courts have also increasingly referred to the Charter when addressing questions to the Court of Justice (preliminary rulings): in 2012, such references rose by 65% as compared to 2011, from 27 to 41. In 2013 the number of referrals remained at 41, the same as in 2012.
Increasing the reference to the Charter is an important step forward, to build a more coherent system for the protection of fundamental rights which guarantees equal levels of rights and protection in all Member States, whenever EU law is being implemented.
Increasing public references to the Charter have led to an improved awareness of the Charter: In 2013, the Commission received almost 4000 letters from the general public regarding fundamental rights issues. Of these, only 31% concerned situations which entirely fell outside EU competence (against 69% in 2010 and 42% in 2012). This shows that the Commission’s efforts to raise awareness of how and where the Charter applies are paying off. The Commission also received over 900 questions from the European Parliament and around 120 petitions.
Finally, the report also draws attention to the progress made on the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In April 2013, the draft agreement on the EU’s accession to the ECHR was finalised, which is a milestone in the accession process. As a next step, the Commission has asked the Court to give its opinion on the draft agreement.
The Charter report is accompanied by a progress report in implementing the European strategy for equality between women and men during 2013.
Links to the web pages of previous reports: