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Is the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights a necessary and desirable development?

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Caroline M.
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  1. Introduction
  2. History
  3. The Charter of Fundamental Rights
    1. The Ingredients
    2. Legitimacy within the Union
    3. Relationship between Luxembourg and Strasbourg
    4. Constitutional Significance
    5. Ignoring the real issue
  4. Conclusion

The Treaty of Lisbon came into force in 2009 and alongside it, a reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Charter) gave it legal standing. The Charter became one of the most defining documents the European Union has ever witnessed, or a mere piece of symbolic literature that is ineffective in practice. Now that it has been implemented, we must wait in anticipation to see where it takes us but for now, by looking at the history of human rights protection and its contents, we can seek to assess whether this development will prove to be ?revolutionary' or a mere replication of what we already have.

In this paper, I have split the analysis into two sections, the first providing a description of human rights protection within the European Union (EU) since its introduction, and secondly, how the introduction of the Charter will interact with existing problems and whether it can be seen as a development of overcoming them, or whether it is a codification of what was already present before its existence.
It is necessary to understand the past human rights protection in the EU to appreciate what affects the Charter will have in the future: ?How we explain the past to ourselves profoundly seems to influence how we feel we should act in the future.?

In 1957, following the Treaties of Rome, the Union was primarily an economic system. It had no specific human rights protection but being a trade organization, it would not have seen the need to bring this under its supervision. Instead, rights were protected by the system in Strasbourg through the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

As it grew, so did the provisions the Union covered, at the national level.

[...] Presidency Conclusions, Nice European Council & 9 December 2000, p Note the Debate on the Convention of the Future of Europe, Hansard,, HL col.900 (January 7 2003.) Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 7 December 2000, as adapted at Strasbourg, on 12 December 2007, which shall have the same legal value as the Treaties.? For example Article 29, ?Everyone has the right of access to a free placement service' which is not relevant to every Member State. [...]


[...] This growing concern led to a growth in political ambitions as to where the EU should be in regards to protection.[14] Part Two: The Charter of Fundamental Rights The Charter was seen first at Nice[15] described as, ?combining in a single text the civil, political, economic, social and societal rights hitherto laid down in a variety of international, European or national sources.' It is composed of 54 articles, and seven chapters. It was nearly a decade until it was elevated to a respected status. [...]


[...] In this case the Charter could develop quicker as it is more modern and encompasses more rights therefore undermining the authority of the ECHR.[39] The answer to this will only be known over time so we can only speculate how it will play out, my assumption is that there will still be a tension between the two. The ECJ must ensure that they avoid divergent interpretations like they have in the past, but full cooperation has always hindered by the Unions preference of autonomy. [...]

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