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The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

       In December 2000, the European Commission, the Council and the Parliament jointly signed and proclaimed the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. An unprecedented move in the history of the EU, the Charter incorporates the whole range of civil, political, economic, and social rights of European citizens, by synthesizing the constitutional traditions and international obligations common to the Member States. The final draft of the Charter contains fifty-four articles and the rights described are divided into six sections: Dignity, Freedoms, Equality, Solidarity, Citizen’s Rights and Justice.

       All the drafts of the Charter have been open to public debate, and many NGOs commented, several publishing their reports on the web. Those published reports show that the Charter has been received with mixed feelings. For example, a group entitled The European Study Group”, opposed the creation of a fundamental right to health care, stating that “[h]ealth protection is a matter of public policy [at the national level] and not of fundamental rights under the Charter.”

        Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Charter is that it affirms that the European Union is indeed a political community, rather than solely an economic institution. Moreover, it asserts that respect for fundamental rights will be at the foundation of all European law. It is also worth noting that Chapter Four, “Solidarity,” contains novel individual rights, especially by US standards, including the right to reconcile one’s family and professional life, one’s right to social security benefits and services, and one’s right to healthcare.

       Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, said in a press release that the proclamation of the Charter "paves the way for the creation of a solid basis for the evolution of the protection of fundamental rights in the Union. On this basis, the protection of fundamental rights will be able to evolve and strengthen. On this basis too, it will be possible to envisage calmly how to incorporate the Charter in the founding treaties of the Union."

       The legal status of the Charter is currently under consideration and as of now it is only a political document. However, the European Parliament and European Council plan to have it officially incorporated into the European Treaty, either as a new title on Fundamental Rights or as a protocol annexed to it. If successful, this will be the first time that the European Parliament becomes involved in “a process which could result in a decision of a ‘constitutional’ nature.”(Press Service)



Written August 10, 2001. Last updated Jan 21, 2008.

Human and Constitutional Rights Resource Page.

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