The Protection of the Human Rights in Europe

consejo-de-europa-logoIf we want to analyze the protection of the fundamental rights in Europe, we have to focus on two organizations: the European Union and the Council of Europe. The difference between these two organizations is based on the different nature and aims of these organizations.

The Council of Europe is an international organization that belongs to the field of cooperation among States, whereas the European Union is a supranational organization which is focused on an integration process. In the integration processes, common institutions exist among the Member States in order to carry out their goals.

Concerning the subject of the fundamental rights, it is necessary to establish a difference between the protection of these rights within the frame of these two organizations. Historically, the Council of Europe was “born” with this purpose. We are talking about the European Convention on Human Rights, developed by the Council of Europe. Conversely, the European Union, or rather, the European Communities, in the beginning, were not concerned about fundamental rights. These Communities had not any catalogue of fundamental rights to protect in the Member States. It has a simple explanation. The European Communities were created to have impact on the economic field. It is true that the goals of the EU have changed over time, and the evolution of this organization has been amazing.

In this way, the main goal of the Council of Europe is to create a democratic area throughout the European continent, where the respect of the fundamental rights is a key principle. Nowadays, the Council of Europe is composed of 47 States (the 28 Member States of the EU and 19 more). In order to get an effective protection of human rights, the European Convention on Human Rights was signed in Rome in 1950. It came into force in 1953.

To safeguard the observance of the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights was created in 1959, whose headquarters is located in Strasbourg. Any person, organization, or group of people can appeal to the Court, in order to defend their fundamental rights, as long as a Member State of the Council of Europe has breached the Convention.

As I have explained before, in the beginning, the EU was not concerned about fundamental rights. However, since 1969, the European Court of the European Community has changed its case-law, and has admitted that the EU recognizes and guarantees the respect of the fundamental rights within the frame of the European law. This situation was a little insecure, as the EU had not its own catalogue of fundamental rights.

In 1999, the European Council (be careful and do not mix the European Council with the Council of Europe), decided that the EU should have its own catalogue of fundamental rights. This text was called the “Charter of Fundamental Rights”, and it was proclaimed in the Treaty of Nice in the year 2000. Nevertheless, it did not come into force until 2009, when the Treaty of Lisbon was imposed, when it acquired binding force.

Finally, both organizations, the Council of Europe as well as the European Union, have been negotiating since July 2010 in order to prepare the accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights. This process has been started up in order to assure the coherence of the protection of the human rights in Europe. In this way, the European Court of Human Rights will be able to know cases in which fundamental rights could have been violated by institutions of the EU. This accession was foreseen in the article 6 of the Treaty of the EU, within the Treaty of Lisbon.


Source | Council of Europe ECHR European Union EuropaPress

Image | Council of Europe

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Law degree at Alcalá University (Madrid). Master in European Union at the Royal Institute of European Studies (Zaragoza). Read Full

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