When does the Charter of Fundamental Rights apply?

The provisions of the Charter are addressed to the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the EU with due regard for the principle of subsidiarity and to member States only when they are implementing EU law.

The Charter protects individuals and legal entities against actions by the EU institutions that infringe fundamental rights. If this happens, the European Court of Justice has the power to review the legality of the act.

If a national authority violates the Charter when implementing EU law, national judges (under the guidance of the European Court of Justice) have the power to ensure that the Charter is respected.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights complements, but does not replace, national constitutional systems or the system of fundamental rights protection guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

If you feel that your rights have been violated in a context not covered by EU law, you will need to address your complaint to the relevant national authority, be it the government, the national courts or a specialised human rights body.

How to report a breach of your rights

National equality bodies

All EU countries must designate a national equality body responsible for promoting equal treatment.

These bodies must

  • provide independent assistance to the victims of discrimination
  • conduct surveys and studies
  • publish independent reports and recommendations

If you feel your rights have been breached you should contact the national equality body in your country.

List of national equality bodies

Read more about making a complaint at national level.

Types of breach

Violation by a national authority

If a national authority violates the cCharter when implementing EU law, national judges (under the guidance of the European Court of Justice) have the power to ensure that the cCharter is respected.

Violation by an EU institution

The cCharter protects individuals and legal entities against actions by the EU institutions that infringe fundamental rights. If this happens, the European Court of Justice has the power to review the legality of the act.

The European Commission takes action against a national authority

The European Commission, can take an EU country to court for violating fundamental rights when implementing EU law. But it cannot do so when only national law is concerned.

European Court of Human Rights 

Independently of their obligations under EU law, all EU countries have also made commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights. This means that you can - as a last resort, after exhausting all remedies available to you in your own country - bring an action before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if an EU country has violated a fundamental right guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

To see whether or not your complaint is admissible, you can consult the admissibility checklist of the European Court of Human Rights.

Ch@rter Click! Toolkit

The EU funded "Ch@rter Click!" project has created a practical toolkit (checklist and tutorial) aimed to assist victims of fundamental rights violations, lawyers, national judges, ombudspersons, equality bodies and other national human rights institutions in determining whether the Charter can provide protection in a specific case.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights complements, but does not replace, national constitutional systems or the system of fundamental rights protection guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Documents

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