Commission renews its commitment to strengthen fundamental rights in the EU

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the European Commission presents a new Strategy to strengthen the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the EU.

Fundamental rights cannot be taken for granted. The new Strategy confirms a renewed commitment to ensure that the Charter is applied to its full potential. As of next year, the Commission will present an annual report, which will look into how the Member States apply the Charter in a selected thematic area.  

Věra  Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, underlined, “This year marks 20 years since the Charter – the European bill of rights – was first proclaimed. It is the embodiment of the values of our Union. The Charter has the same legal value as the Treaties. I want people to know who and where to turn to if their rights are breached.”

Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders said, “Recently, new fundamental rights challenges have emerged; the Coronavirus pandemic and its related restrictions are a telling example. The developments we have seen in society call for a renewed commitment to ensure that the Charter is applied to its full by the EU and its Member States. More than ever, we must put the Charter at the centre of our work and ensure people can effectively access their fundamental rights.”

The strategy complements the European Democracy Action Plan and the Rule of Law report, illustrating the Commission’s comprehensive approach to promoting and protecting the fundamental rights and values of the EU. 

Making the Charter a reality for all:

The Strategy focuses on four pillars for actions, setting out the direction of the Charter implementation for the next 10 years:

  • Effective application by the Member States: The Charter is binding on Member States when they implement EU law. The Commission will work closely with Member States and, through dialogue, is ready to support them in implementing EU law effectively, and in full respect of the Charter. Member States are invited to nominate a Charter focal point to facilitate coordination and information sharing. As of 2021, the Commission will report annually on the Charter, looking more closely at the Charter’s application in the Member States in specific areas. The 2021 report will focus on fundamental rights in the digital age.
  • Empowering civil society: The Commission will closely monitor and take action against national measures affecting the activities of civil society that are contrary to EU law. Some Member States still do not have fully functioning national human rights institutions, which are important links between government and civil society. Member States are invited to establish such institutions and to ensure that they have the means to work in full independence. The Commission will also promote Charter-related training for judges, other justice practitioners and rights defenders.
  • The Charter as a compass for EU institutions: EU institutions must comply with the Charter in all their actions. The Commission will boost its internal capacity on Charter compliance including through e-learning, updated guidance for staff and training plans. The Commission stands ready to support the European Parliament and the Council to ensure that they apply the Charter effectively in their work.
  • Strengthening people’s awareness: A recent Eurobarometer shows that six in ten respondents want to know more about their rights and where to turn to if their Charter rights are violated. The Commission will launch an information campaign on the Charter and use the Erasmus+ programme to raise awareness of young people. The Commission encourages Member States to also develop their own initiatives to promote awareness.

Next Steps

Given Member States’ key role in the implementation of this strategy, the Commission invites the Council to prepare follow-up conclusions.

In 2025, the Commission will report on the implementation of this strategy.

Background

Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights has been legally binding.

The 2020 and 2019 Fundamental Rights Report shows that Member States lack national policies promoting awareness and implementation of the Charter. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights’ (FRA) findings highlight civil society organisations and National Human Rights Institutions play a key role in ensuring that the Charter is a reality in people’s lives, however these organisations are not sufficiently aware of the Charter and when it applies.

The Commission works with authorities at national, local and EU level to better inform people about their fundamental rights and where to find help if their rights have been infringed. Practical information is available on the e-Justice portal.

In preparing this new strategy, the Commission carried out a Eurobarometer survey on the Charter as well as stakeholder consultations through the Charter conference 2019 and targeted questionnaires analysed by FRA.

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