The European Union and the Council of Europe on the Issue of Human Rights: Twins Separated at Birth?

By Quinn, Gerard | McGill Law Journal, August 2001 | Go to article overview

The European Union and the Council of Europe on the Issue of Human Rights: Twins Separated at Birth?


Quinn, Gerard, McGill Law Journal


Originally an economic union to further market integration, the European Union has gradually and paradoxically become a major force in human rights both within and outside Europe. The author surveys this development, from early inchoate principles in treaties up to the recent Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. He argues that the issue of human rights is closely linked to the still-controversial goal of European political integration, and its further development depends on the future direction of that integration.

After the Second World War, different yet complementary approaches to European reconstruction emerged, exemplified by the Council of Europe on the one hand and the European Union on the other. The former's interstate approach augmented existing nation-states on the basis of shared ideals, while the latter's supranational approach used a common economic space to erode national boundaries. As the Union's vision of political integration was gradually realized it drew closer to the human rights principles championed by the Council. During the 1990s this latent convergence became visible, and human rights provided a core instrument for re-legitimating the economic project by increasing the Union's relevance in ordinary people's lives.

The author concludes by considering the future of the human rights agenda in Europe. Its challenges and changing nature necessitate redefining the relationship between Council and Union towards greater co-operation. These institutions are, in a sense, twin organizations only now beginning to come to terms with each other.

Alors qu'elle constituait a ses debuts une union economique destinee a promouvoir l'integration des marches, l'Union europeenne est graduellement--et paradoxalement--devenue un acteur important dans le domaine des droits de l'homme, autant en Europe que dans d'autres regions. L'auteur fait etat de cette evolution, des premiers principes generaux issus de traites jusqu'a la recente Charte des droits fondamentaux de l'Union europeenne. Selon lui, la question des droits de l'homme est etroitement liee a l'objectif encore controverse d'une integration politique europeenne et, en consequence, ses progres futurs dependent de l'orientation que prendra cette integration.

La creation du Conseil de l'Europe, d'une part, et de l'Union europeenne, d'antre part, illustre les approches differentes quoique complementaires concernant l'integration europeenne adoptees apres la Seconde guerre mondiale. Alors que la premiere--une approche interetatique--renforcait les etats-nations en conformite avec des ideaux communs, la seconde--une approche supranationale--utilisait l'espaee economique commun pour estomper les frontieres entre les Etats membres. Le succes du projet d'integration politique rapprocha graduellement celui-ci des principes relatifs aux droits de l'homme dont le conseil se faisait le promoteur. Cette convergence latente devint visible darts les annees 1990, et les droits de l'homme fournirent alors un instrument de base pour 1egitimer de nouveau le projet d'integration economique en demontrant la pertinence de l'Union pour la vie quotidienne des citoyens.

L'auteur conclut en abordant l'avenir du programme europeen des droits de l'homme. Les nouveaux defis et la nature changeante de ce programme necessitent une redefinition de la relation entre le Conseil et l'Union afin de permettre une meilleure cooperation. Ces institutions, qui sont en un sens jumelles, ne font que commencer a developper une veritable relation.

Introduction

I.   Backdrop: The "Problem" of the "Nation-State" and the "Solution"
     of Competing Models of European Integration
     A. The Nation-State in Europe
     B. Augmenting the Nation-State: The Council of Europe and the
        Human Rights Agenda
     C. Eroding the Lines between Nation-States in Limited Sectors: The
        EU and the Market Integration Agenda

II. … 

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