The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights Scope and Competence

Jodie Blackstock

This paper was presented by Jodie Blackstock, Director of Criminal and EU Justice Policy at JUSTICE, at the conference The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: An essential tool for UK practitioners, held on the 29th March. This is the second part of the paper. The first part was posted yesterday.

Limitations of the Charter

The Charter provides a general limitation clause to all articles. Article 52(1) provides:

Any limitation on the exercise of the rights and freedoms recognised by this Charter must be provided for by law and respect the essence of those rights and freedoms. Subject to the principle of proportionality, limitations may be made only if they are necessary and genuinely meet objectives of general interest recognised by the Union or the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others.

This is a test of proportionality developed by the ECJ (in particular Case C-112/00 Schmidberger Internationale Transporte und Planzuge v Austria [2003] ECR I-5659 in which an environmental protest was held blocking a road for 30 hours and the claimant company complained that their right to free movement of goods was infringed. The Court considered arts 10 and 11 ECHR which are not absolute rights and applied the above test, concluding that it had been a limited disruption for a genuine aim and efforts had been taken to limit the impact, whereas a ban on the demonstration would have been an unjustified interference with freedom of expression). The Explanations confirm that the reference to ‘general interest’ relates to art 3 TEU as well as arts 4(1) TEU, 35(3), 36 and 346 TFEU.

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How the CJEU uses the Charter of Fundamental Rights

Aidan O’Neill QC

In the second of two blog posts, Aidan O’Neill QC considers the growing body of case law regarding the CJEU’s use of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

No standing for Consumer Associations to challenge merger clearance decisions by the Commission

In Case T‑224/10 Association belge des consommateurs test-achats ASBLv Commission supported by Électricité de France (EDF) 12 October [2011] ECR II-nyr the General Court yet again rejected a challenge to its restrictive standing rules, this time brought by a consumer association who sought to challenge on behalf of consumers a clearance decision of the Commission allowing a merger between two undertakings to take place.  The Court rejected the consumer association’s argument that the Treaty and Charter provisions (Article 38 CFR), which require consumer-protection considerations to be taken into account in defining and implementing other EU policies and activities and for those EU policies to ensure a high level of consumer protection, meant that it should be recognised to have sufficient interest in a merger on behalf of consumers affected by it. Instead the Court stuck to its narrow definition of standing in the usual terms:

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Application of EU Rights Charter – AG’s Opinion, by Rosalind English

This post first appeared on the UK Human Rights Blog and is reproduced here with permission and thanks. 

Rosalind English

NS v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Principles of Community law) [2011] EUECJ C-493/10 (22 September 2011) – read opinion

The Common European Asylum System was designed to establish a fair and effective distribution of the burden on the asylum systems of the EU Member States. Regulation No 343/2003 was passed in order to introduce a clear and workable method for determining which single Member State is responsible for determining any given asylum application lodged within the European Union. The measure was also intended to prevent forum shopping by asylum seekers.

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Confusing the protection of human rights in Europe – Strasbourg v Luxembourg? Part 2.

Aidan O’Neill QC

In part 1 of this series of posts, EUtopia law examined the problems created by the existence of two distinct means of reference to fundamental rights, either under direct reference to the ECHR or under reference to the general principles of EU law. This post evaluates possible solutions to this problem.

An opportunity for a possible resolution of the divergence problem arose following the 1996 decision of the Court in Bosphorus (C-84/95) where the CJEU held that the impounding of an aircraft by the Irish authorities acting under an EC regulation introduced to enforce UN sanctions against the former Yugoslavia did not contravene the respect for property rights recognised under EU law. The aircraft owners then took their case to the ECtHR. After a hearing, in which the European Commission was permitted to intervene as an interested party, the Strasbourg Grand Chamber pronounced judgment in June 2005. In its judgment in Bosphorus v Ireland (App no.45036/98) the ECtHR came to the same substantive result as the CJEU on the fundamental rights argument in holding that the detention and retention of the aircraft was indeed compatible with the State’s obligations under ECHR, art 1 Protocol 1. In reaching this decision the Strasbourg Court addressed and attempted to resolve the issue of the possibility of divergence between human rights interpretation and protection as between the two courts by applying a presumption that the CJEU offered equivalent fundamental rights protection to that afforded by the ECtHR and so that Member States could not be found to be in breach of the ECHR if and insofar as they were (properly implementing) EU law in accordance with the fundamental rights guarantees protected by the CJEU.

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Expelling EU Nationals: It’s EU Law, not the HRA

Aidan O’Neill QC

As part of its continuing campaign against the Human Rights Act the Daily Telegraph is once again relying upon the case of Lorenzo Chindamo, an Italian national, as a prime example of how convicted foreign criminals are relying on the Convention rights protected under the Act to prevent their expulsion from the UK after serving their sentence. But as the UK Human Rights blog has pointed out (repeatedly) the decision that it would not be lawful to deport Philip Lawrence’s killer was not made on the basis of his Convention rights, but instead relied upon his EU citizenship rights. It might therefore be worth setting out, for the benefit of all concerned with this issue, what those EU law rights are.

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Confusing the protection of human rights in Europe – Strasbourg v Luxembourg? Part 1.

Aidan O’Neill QC

Journalists and politicians in the UK have often shown themselves to be ‘confused’ over the relationship between the EU law and the European Convention of Human Rights/Human Rights Act. This confusion has been particularly evident in punditry on cases raising the issue of possible deportation or expulsion from the UK of other EU nationals and prisoners’ voting rights. In a series of posts EUtopia law looks at the relationship between the CJEU and ECtHR more generally.

All the Member States of the European Union are also contracting States of the Council of Europe. This means that the States are subject, in matters of EU law, to the final jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) based in Luxembourg.  In matters concerning fundamental rights, however, these same States are subject to the final jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”), based in Strasbourg. Of course EU law and fundamental rights readily overlap in many areas. In that event, which is the top court: Strasbourg or Luxembourg ?

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