Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Preamble to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union applies to all states of the European Union except Poland. The Charter (often abbreviated: EU Charter of Fundamental Rights ; frequent abbreviations: GRC or GRCh ) codifies fundamental and human rights within the framework of the European Union . With the Charter , the EU fundamental rights are for the first time comprehensively laid down in writing and in an understandable form. It is based on the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter , the member states' constitutions and international human rights documents, but also on the case law of the European courts of law.

The charter was originally drawn up by the first European convention chaired by Roman Herzog . a. approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union . The charter, which was solemnly proclaimed for the first time at the opening of the Intergovernmental Conference in Nice on December 7, 2000 - after the failure of the European Constitutional Treaty - only became legally binding on December 1, 2009, together with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty . The Charter of Fundamental Rights is no longer part of the Treaty, as provided for in the failed constitutional draft; however, through the reference in Article 6 of the EU treaty as amended by the Lisbon Treaty , it is declared binding for all states, with the exception of Poland . In 2009 the European Council of the Czech Republic promised that this opt-out would be extended to the Czech Republic through an additional protocol that is to be ratified in the next treaty reform (probably in the next enlargement treaty). In February 2014, however, the Czech government waived this opt-out.

History of origin

This Charter ( GRCH ) was founded in 1989 previously as a Community Charter ( GemCharta adopted) of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers and contained the main principles on which the European labor law model was based, in line with the preamble to the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community were adopted (EEC) who recognized the need for continuous improvement in the living and working conditions of EU citizens. Following the resolutions of the European Council in Cologne (June 3-4, 1999) and Tampere (October 15-16, 1999) at the initiative of the German Federal Government , a European Convention made up of 15 representatives of the heads of state and government and one representative of the European Commission, 16 members of the European Parliament and 30 national parliamentarians (two from each Member State) the “Draft Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union”. Former Federal President Roman Herzog was elected Chairman of the Convention at the constituent meeting of the Convention on December 17, 1999. Germany was represented by Jürgen Meyer ( SPD ) or his deputy in the Convention, Peter Altmaier ( CDU ), and by the Minister for European Affairs of the Free State of Thuringia, Jürgen Gnauck (CDU), or his representative, the State Minister for European Affairs of Lower Saxony, Wolf Weber (SPD).

After nine months of intense debates in the convention and wide-ranging hearings of social groups, the then EU accession candidates and relevant institutions, the fundamental rights convention approved the draft of the charter in its formal closing session on October 2, 2000. The public was involved through events, the media and the Internet, as well as with numerous written submissions. The representatives of the European Court of Justice , the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights also expressly welcomed the draft as observers asking for their opinion.

The European Council (Biarritz 13/14 October 2000) and the European Parliament (14 November 2000) gave their consent. The German Bundestag (November 28, 2000) and the Bundesrat (December 1, 2000) each passed motions that welcomed the Charter and recommended its inclusion in the contractual basis of the European Union.

A first attempt to give the Charter legal effect was made with the 2004 Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe . This consisted of four parts, the second of which formed the charter. After the constitutional treaty had been rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005 , the charter, which up until then had considerable charisma as soft law , was now given legal force as an independent document by inserting a reference to it in the Lisbon Treaty .

Goals, content and binding effect of the Charter

The Charter contains the fundamental rights applicable at the level of the Union, which have so far only been mentioned in the Treaty through a general reference to the European Convention on Human Rights and the common constitutional traditions of the Member States of the European Union (Article 6 (3) of the EU Treaty ) . By making them “visible” in the charter, the fundamental rights are intended to become more transparent for the individual. At the same time, the identity and legitimacy of the European Union - as a community of values ​​- should be strengthened.

In six titles ( dignity , liberty , equality , solidarity , civil rights and judicial rights) the charter summarizes general human and civil rights and economic and social rights in one document. The Charter contains a number of essential principles that the European legislator in particular must adhere to.

Another, final title (Title VII) regulates the so-called horizontal questions. This title contains the rules that apply across the board to all fundamental rights (addressees of fundamental rights, fundamental rights barriers , relationship to other guarantees of fundamental rights, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights, prohibition of abuse).

Some sections of the charter are ambiguous; so is z. For example, Article 6 stipulates the right of every person “to freedom and security”, although it remains indefinite how individual freedom is to be weighed against collective security. Knowledge of the discussions in the Convention on Fundamental Rights is therefore essential for an appropriate interpretation of the Charter.

In 50 articles comprehensive rights are recognized, for the enforcement of which not only the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, but also all national judges - in a sense as Union judges - are responsible. In Article 1 of the Charter, as in Article 1 (1) of the Basic Law, it says: “Human dignity is inviolable”. However, when it comes to granting defense and protective rights, the charter sometimes goes far beyond the German Basic Law; In addition to classic civil rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and assembly, it also ensures consumer protection , data protection , a “right to good administration ” and extensive rights of children , people with disabilities and the elderly. In particular, numerous social rights were included in the charter, while the German Basic Law is silent on this. Among other things, “decent working conditions” and free job placement are guaranteed. In addition, the Charter is permeated with anti-discrimination. Article 21 lists more inadmissible grounds for discrimination than Article 19 of the TFEU (formerly Article 13 of the EC Treaty ), which previously formed the basis of national anti-discrimination laws. It literally means:

“Discrimination in particular because of gender, race, skin color, ethnic or social origin, genetic characteristics, language, religion or belief, political or other beliefs, belonging to a national minority , property, birth , disabilities , age or sexual orientation are prohibited. "

Some fundamental rights apply absolutely and without restriction, such as human dignity in Art. 1, the prohibition of torture in Art. 4 or the prohibition of slavery in Art. 5. The Union and Member States are not allowed to intervene in these rights, and any relativization - for example with the prohibition of torture - is prohibited . The other, not absolute rights, on the other hand, can be restricted, whereby no basic right may “run empty”. With a few exceptions, the individual fundamental rights of the Charter do not contain any specific restrictions. A general limitation clause can be found in Art. 52 (1), according to which every restriction must be provided for by law and must respect the principle of proportionality and the essence of the rights. Insofar as charter rights originate from the European Convention on Human Rights , the specific limitation provisions listed there apply, and insofar as rights have been taken from the European treaty, such as civil rights, the limitation clauses already contained therein.

In practice, the most important question is to whom the Charter applies and in which situations the citizen can invoke the Charter rights. This question is clarified by Article 51. According to this, the Charter of Fundamental Rights binds, on the one hand, all organs, institutions and other agencies of the European Union. All of the Union's action must therefore be measured against the standard of the Charter, in particular European legislation (through regulations and directives ) and the European administration.

On the other hand, the Charter also binds the member states insofar as they implement Union law, for example by transposing European directives into national law or - through their national administrations - implementing European regulations.

The charter does not apply to purely national issues. Here the fundamental rights of the member states are still the sole benchmark. Most inquiries to the European Commission concern matters of this kind, for which neither the Commission nor the European Court of Justice have jurisdiction. As a rough rule of thumb, the Charter is only applicable if there is a European reference.


According to the Humanist Press Service, Rolf Schwanitz is bothered by the German version of sentence 2 of the preamble, which reads in the version of December 12, 2007: “In the awareness of its spiritual, religious and moral heritage, the Union is based on the indivisible and universal values ​​of Human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity ”. In other language versions reference is made not literally to religious, but to spiritual inheritance. The English (“spiritual and moral heritage”) and French (“patrimoine spirituel et moral”) formulation can only be translated as “spiritual and moral heritage”. According to Rolf Schwanitz, the German-language formulation is the result of active lobbying by several groups.

In his address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 18, 2008, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kyrill I of Moscow and all of Russia criticized the fact that there is no clause in the charter to restrict the rights and freedoms guaranteed in it, in order to just requirements of morality ”. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights promulgated by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948 still had such a clause (Art. 29, Paragraph 2).

The European Convention on Human Rights of the Council of Europe is of particular importance with regard to the right to life . According to Article 52 paragraph 3 of the Charter, this is also to be used when interpreting articles whose content corresponds to those of the Convention on Human Rights. According to the Explanatory Notes to the Charter, there is such a correspondence with its Article 2 (right to life). Accordingly, Article 2 paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights must be observed when determining its scope:

“Killing will not be considered a violation of this article if it is caused by the use of force strictly necessary to:
a) defend someone against unlawful violence;
b) to lawfully arrest anyone or prevent someone who is lawfully deprived of liberty from escaping;
c) lawfully put down a riot or insurrection "

These provisions restrict the right to life. However, regardless of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights , all EU member states have already signed and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights of the Council of Europe, which means that this point of criticism has practically come to nothing. In addition, Article 52 (3) in sentence 2 expressly states that the reference to the Convention on Human Rights “does not preclude that the law of the Union grants more extensive protection”, whereby paragraph 4 refers to the “constitutional traditions of the member states” .

A ratification of the human rights convention by the European Union as a whole is still pending, which is of limited practical importance in view of the validity of the Charter of Fundamental Rights for the organs of the EU and its express reference to the importance of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the accession process is currently at a standstill.

If it was also criticized that, according to Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 2 paragraph 2 should not exclude the death penalty for acts committed in time of war or when there is an imminent threat of war, Protocol No. 13 meanwhile an absolute ban on the death penalty, which also applies in times of war. A deviation according to Article 15 of the Human Rights Convention is excluded. Thus, through the reference in Article 52 paragraph 3, the prohibition of the death penalty according to Article 2 paragraph 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights also applies without restriction and also in times of war.

In addition, it is criticized that the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which should apply as a basic consensus of democratic and constitutional human rights perception, is not binding for all EU member states.

Current impact

The European Court of Justice overturned Directive 2006/24 / EC on data retention due to violations of the Charter on April 8, 2014 on submissions from Ireland and Austria in the related cases C-293/12 and C-594/12 ; In encroaching on the fundamental rights of the right to the protection of personal data (Art. 8) and the right to respect for private life (Art. 7), it violated the principle of proportionality (Art. 52).

In a decision of March 14, 2012, the Austrian Constitutional Court declared that the Charter of Fundamental Rights for Austria was one of those norms that it used as a yardstick for the constitutional conformity of Austrian law, conflicting general norms would be repealed. This was interpreted as a fundamental decision and a "milestone in the development of the fundamental rights judicature".

At the end of November 2016, the Zeit Foundation published a draft of the Charter of Digital Fundamental Rights of the European Union , which recognizes the Charter of Fundamental Rights in its preamble and explicitly refers to the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the sections "Equality" and "Final provisions".


  • Jürgen Meyer (Ed.): Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Comment . Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 4th edition, Baden-Baden 2014, ISBN 978-3-8487-0553-5 .
  • Norbert Bernsdorff , Martin Borowsky: The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Handouts and minutes of meetings . Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 1st edition, Baden-Baden 2002, ISBN 3-7890-8177-9 .
  • Hans D. Jarass : Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Taking into account the fundamental rights developed by the ECJ and the fundamental rights regulations of the treaties. Comment . Verlag CH Beck, 1st edition, Munich 2010; 2nd edition 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-65174-8 .
  • Peter J. Tettinger, Klaus Stern (ed.): Cologne joint commentary on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights . Verlag CHBeck, 1st edition, Munich 2006.
  • Georg J. Schmittmann: Rights and principles in the Charter of Fundamental Rights . Carl Heymanns Verlag, 1st edition, 2007, ISBN 3-452-26616-8 .
  • Heike Baddenhausen, Michal Deja: Protection of fundamental rights in the EU after the Treaty of Lisbon (PDF; 107 kB). German Bundestag, Scientific Services , Analyzes 8/08 from February 20, 2008.
  • Martin Kober: The protection of fundamental rights in the European Union - stocktaking, specification and approaches for the further development of the European doctrine of fundamental rights based on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union . Herbert Utz Verlag, 1st edition, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-8316-0821-8 .
  • Peter M. Huber: Interpretation and application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights , in: Neue Juristische Wochenschrift 2011, No. 33, ISSN  0341-1915 , pp. 2385–2390.

Web links

Commons : Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See
  2. Community Charter (GemCharta) of the basic social rights of workers (COM (89) 248 final)
  3. Humanistic Press Service: Religion only in the German EU Charter of Fundamental Rights , February 16, 2012
  4. The address of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate DECR on the panel discussion on Human Rights and Intercultural Dialogue at the 7th session of UN Human Rights Council ( German translation )
  5. Explanations of the Charter of Fundamental Rights . In: Official Journal of the European Union . C, No. 303, 2007, pp. 17-35.
  6. Information on the European Convention on Human Rights
  7. ECJ (plenary) December 18, 2014 Opinion 2 // 13
  8. Council of Europe, Protocol No. 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, regarding the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances .
  9. Christian Callies, Article 2 Right to Life , No. 2. In: Christian Calliess, Matthias Ruffert (eds.), EUV / AEUV. Constitutional law of the European Union with a European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Commentary , 4th edition 2011, Munich .
  10. Judgment of the Court of Justice (Grand Chamber) of 8 April 2014. In Joined Cases C ‑ 293/12 and C ‑ 594/12 ( InfoCuria , database of the Court of Justice).
  11. Reinhard Priebe : Reform of the data retention - strict standards of the ECJ . In: EuZW . 2014, pp. 456–459.
  12. knowledge U 466/11 ( Memento of 23 July 2012 at the Internet Archive May), pp 13-14, paragraph 43 retrieved 6. 2012th
  13. Constitutional judges raise EU fundamental rights to constitutional rank. In: Wiener Zeitung. May 4, 2012, accessed on May 6, 2012 : “For the Viennese constitutional lawyer Bernd-Christian Funk, the decision of the VfGH is a“ milestone in the development of fundamental rights judicature ”. In combination with the constitution and the human rights convention, it now brings about almost "complete protection of fundamental rights". "