Magazine article European Social Policy

Fundamental Rights : Reding: Eu Charter Often Misunderstood

Magazine article European Social Policy

Fundamental Rights : Reding: Eu Charter Often Misunderstood

Article excerpt

"The EU is not a fundamental rights supercop'," Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said, on 31 March, as the first report on the application of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights was published.

The commissioner wants to tackle a common misunderstanding of the charter, which establishes principles on human dignity, liberty, equality, citizenship and justice. The text has been legally binding since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, on 1 December 2009. However, the charter applies primarily to the EU institutions - member states are only bound by it when implementing EU policies and law.

Commissioner Reding said the report clearly shows a poor understanding of the charter, its aims, and where it applies. Some 69% of the 4,000 letters and questions on fundamental rights received by the Commission in 2010 concerned cases outside of the remit of EU law. The charter is only relevant when Community law is applied at national level, the commissioner emphasised at a press conference.

The report also shows that the Commission has not followed up 19% of fundamental rights dossiers it has received. Additionally, communication about the charter is poor, with a recent study by the European ombudsman showing that 72% of Europeans did not feel informed enough about the charter.


Member states should automatically refer to the charter when they are writing or adopting legislation. Therefore, the Commission has established a checklist' to help them check if their laws comply with the charter. Questions include: 1. what are the fundamental rights concerned?; 2. are the rights in question absolute (such as human dignity and the ban on torture?); and 3. what is the impact of policy options fundamental rights - will they limit or promote fundamental rights?

Commissioner Reding cited an EU report on body scanners in airports, where the Commission highlighted the need to respect human dignity, private and family life, and the protection of information of a personal nature. …

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