EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU brings together in a single document the fundamental rights protected in the EU. The Charter contains rights and freedoms under six titles: Dignity, Freedoms, Equality, Solidarity, Citizens' Rights, and Justice. Proclaimed in 2000, the Charter has become legally binding on the EU with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, in December 2009.
Why the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights exists
The rights of every individual within the EU were established at different times, in different ways and in different forms.
For this reason, the EU decided to clarify things and to include them all in a single document which has been updated in the light of changes in society, social progress and scientific and technological developments: this document is the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter).
- all the rights found in the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU;
- the rights and freedoms enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights;
- other rights and principles resulting from the common constitutional traditions of EU countries and other international instruments.
The Charter sets out a series of individual rights and freedoms.
The Charter is a very modern codification and includes 'third generation' fundamental rights, such as:
- data protection;
- guarantees on bioethics; and
- transparent administration.
The Charter is consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights adopted in the framework of the Council of Europe: when the Charter contains rights that stem from this Convention, their meaning and scope are the same.
When the Charter applies
The provisions of the Charter are addressed to:
- the institutions and bodies of the EU with due regard for the principle of subsidiarity; and
- the national authorities only when they are implementing EU law.
For example, the Charter applies when EU countries adopt or apply a national law implementing an EU directive or when their authorities apply an EU regulation directly.
In cases where the Charter does not apply, the protection of fundamental rights is guaranteed under the constitutions or constitutional traditions of EU countries and international conventions they have ratified.
The Charter does not extend the competence of the EU to matters not included by the Treaties under its competence.
How the Charter became part of the EU Treaties
The Charter was initially solemnly proclaimed at the Nice European Council on 7 December 2000. At that time, it did not have any binding legal effect.
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 2010.
The Charter strengthens the protection of fundamental rights by making those rights more visible and more explicit for citizens.