European Commission adopts strategy to ensure respect for EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

The European Commission today adopted a strategy (COM (2010) 573/4) to ensure that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – legally binding since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty – is effectively implemented. The Commission will verify that all EU laws are in compliance with the Charter at each stage of the legislative process – from the early preparatory work in the Commission to the adoption of draft laws by the European Parliament and the Council, and then in their application by EU Member States. The Commission will provide information to citizens on when it can intervene in fundamental rights issues and will publish an Annual Report on the Charter’s application to monitor the progress achieved. The Commission is thereby responding to calls from the European Parliament.

“The Charter is a reflection of our common values and constitutional heritage,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. “The Charter must be the compass for all EU policies. The European Commission, and notably its Justice Department, will be very vigilant in ensuring that the Charter is upheld in all proposals for EU legislation, in all amendments introduced by the Council and by the European Parliament, as well as by Member States when they implement EU laws. The strategy adopted by the Commission today is an important step in creating a European fundamental rights culture.”

Under the strategy, the Commission explains the steps it can take to ensure
that the EU has an exemplary fundamental rights record and to improve
the public’s understanding of fundamental rights protection in Europe by:

1. Guaranteeing that the EU is beyond reproach in upholding fundamental rights

  • All
    proposals for EU legislation must respect the Charter. The Commission
    will therefore reinforce its assessment of the impact of new legislative
    proposals on fundamental rights. On the basis of a fundamental rights
    “check list,” the Commission services will identify which fundamental
    rights could be affected by a proposal and assess systematically the
    impact on these rights of each envisaged policy option.

  • During
    the legislative process, including final compromises in the European
    Parliament and the Council, the Commission will work with the
    co-legislators to ensure that EU law is in line with the Charter. The
    Commission will launch an inter-institutional dialogue to determine
    methods for dealing with amendments that raise questions of
    compatibility with fundamental rights.

  • EU
    Member States are already bound by the fundamental rights guaranteed
    under their national constitutions. However, when they implement EU law,
    they must also respect fundamental rights. The Commission will use all
    tools available, including infringement proceedings when necessary, to
    ensure compliance with the Charter in the implementation of EU law.

2. Improving information for citizens

  • Citizens
    should know where they can turn for assistance in cases of violations
    of fundamental rights. They will have access to information about legal
    remedies in all Member States through the Commission’s new e-Justice portal in 2011.

  • The
    Commission will explain when it can and cannot intervene on fundamental
    rights complaints where these are outside the scope of EU competence.
    The Charter does not establish a general power for the Commission to
    intervene in the area of fundamental rights. It can intervene only when
    EU law comes into play (for example, when EU legislation is adopted or
    when a national measure applies an EU law in a manner incompatible with
    the Charter). Member States have their own systems
    for protecting fundamental rights through national constitutions and
    courts; the Charter is not a replacement for them. It is therefore in
    the first place up to national courts to ensure respect for fundamental
    rights.

3. Monitoring progress

  • The
    Commission will publish an Annual Report on the application of the
    Charter. The report will monitor progress in the areas where the EU has
    powers to act: showing how the Charter has been taken into account in
    concrete cases (such as when new legislation is proposed). It will
    provide an opportunity for an annual exchange of views with the European
    Parliament and the Council and act as a vehicle for improving the
    information for the public.

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