Three years after it became legally binding, the impact of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights is increasingly clear.
It is becoming a point of reference not only for the EU institutions when drawing up legislation but also for the European and national courts, making fundamental rights a reality for citizens in Europe. These are the findings On the third annual report on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, covering 2012, which illustrates with a wide range of fundamental rights related cases that the EU is continuing to build a more coherent system for protecting people’s fundamental rights. The report is accompanied by a new progress report on equality between women and men during 2012 and it coincides with a series of new actions to reinforce citizens’ rights that the Commission has put forward in its 2013 EU Citizenship Report.
“Fundamental rights are the foundation on which the European Union is built: they must be continuously protected and strengthened. This is what citizens expect from us”, said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. “The Commission is determined to lead by example, which is why we have taken action to put fundamental rights into effect wherever the EU has the power to do so, from safeguarding personal data protection, to promoting gender equality, to guaranteeing fair trial rights. The EU Fundamental Rights Charter is not just a document – it is becoming the reality for Europe’s 500 million citizens. This is also thanks to national courts which are increasingly bringing the Charter to life.”
The report gives a comprehensive overview of how fundamental rights have been implemented in the EU over the past year. It highlights, for example, how the rights enshrined in the Charter are taken into careful consideration by the EU institutions when proposing and adopting EU legislation, while Member States are bound by the Charter only in cases where they implement EU policies and law. The report reveals that the fundamental rights related issues most frequently raised by citizens in their correspondence with the Commission were free movement and residence (18% of all letters on fundamental rights to the Commission), the functioning of national justice systems (15%), access to justice (12.5%), freedom to choose an occupation and the right to engage in work (7.5%), integration of people with disabilities (4.5%), and protection of personal data (4%).