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.
Main findings of the 2012 Report on the application of the Charter
Three years after it became legally binding, the impact of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights is increasingly clear. It is becoming a point of reference not only for the EU institutions when drawing up legislation but also for the European and national courts, making fundamental rights a reality for citizens in Europe.
The 2012 report gives a comprehensive overview of how fundamental rights have been implemented in the EU over the past year. It highlights, for example, 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 bound by the Charter only in cases where they implement EU policies and law. The report is structured into six chapters reflecting the six titles of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: Dignity, Freedoms, Equality, Solidarity, Citizens' Rights and Justice.
Where the EU has competence to act, the Commission can propose EU legislation that gives concrete effect to the rights and principles of the Charter. Examples of Commission proposals during 2012 include:
- the proposed major reform of the EU's rules on the protection of personal data;
- the pro-active approach taken to accelerate progress towards a better gender balance on the corporate boards of European companies listed on stock exchanges;
- the steps taken to safeguard procedural rights and victims’ rights.
As guardian of the Treaties, the Commission is committed to intervening where necessary to make sure Member States implement EU law effectively while complying with the Charter.
Examples of infringement proceedings in 2012 include:
- the Commission's action contesting the early retirement of around 274 judges and public prosecutors in Hungary caused by a sudden reduction of the mandatory retirement age for this profession from 70 to 62. The Court of Justice of the European Union upheld the Commission's assessment that this mandatory retirement is incompatible with EU equal treatment law (the Directive prohibiting discrimination on the basis of age and Article 21 of the Charter);
- infringement action to enforce the right of same-sex spouses or registered partners to join EU citizens and reside with them in Malta (under the EU's Free Movement Directive).
After just three years in force as primary law, the take up of the Charter by national courts when EU law is involved can be seen as a positive sign. For example, the Austrian Constitutional Court handed down a landmark judgement regarding the application of the Charter in domestic judicial review of constitutionality. The Austrian court ruled that individuals can rely on the rights and principles of the EU Charter when challenging the lawfulness of domestic legislation.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has also increasingly referred to the Charter in its decisions: the number of decisions quoting the Charter in its reasoning almost doubled, from 43 in 2011 to 87 in 2012. National courts when addressing questions to the Court of Justice (preliminary rulings) have also increasingly referred to the Charter: in 2012, such references rose by 65% as compared to 2011, from 27 to 41.
The increasing reference to the Charter is an important step on the road to 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.
Fundamental rights protection will be further enhanced with the EU's accession to the European Convention of Human Rights. Negotiations on the accession agreement have been finalised.
- 2010 Annual Report on the application of the Charter
- 2011 Annual Report on the application of the Charter