Towards an EU Charter of Fundamental Rights?

DOI10.1177/1023263X0000700201
Publication Date01 Jun 2000
AuthorAalt Willem Heringa
SubjectEditorial
Editorial
Towards an ED Charter of Fundamental Rights?
The European Council decided
in
1999 on the desirability of adopting an EU Charter
of
Fundamental Rights. 1The Charter should be adopted at a meeting
of
the European
Council
in
Nice at the end
of
2000. However it is not very clear what precisely the
European Council means by a 'Charter'. Will this be a binding or a non-binding
document, and what rights must be included?
A body (the composition of this body was set out in the aforementioned Presidency
Conclusions), which has renamed itself a Convention, has been set up to draft a
proposal. The Convention has great freedom in defining its aims, setting criteria as to
the rights to be included, formulating therights to be included, drafting the necessary
restrictions, and answering open questions, such as who shall or shall not be bound by
the Charter. No terms of reference have been formulated, other than that a text must
be on the table
in
time for the Autumn 2000 Nice summit. The working methods and
the results of the Convention are very transparent. Texts are regularly published on the
Internet and it is also through the electronic world of communication that outsiders can
forward their comments to the Convention. 2
It
seems very clear that from a constitutionalperspective, taking as a starting point the
desirability
of
a balanced European Union which respects the requirements of the rule
of
law and human rights, a human rights charter or a consolidated bill
of
rights is an
excellent idea. However, there are many difficulties that have to be oversome, political
obstacles to be crossed, and dangers to be confronted. Political motives and legal
realities, or legal motives and political realities, do not necessarily lead to a perfect
outcome. Politicians may desire a Charter for reasons other than the quality of the
Charter. Politicians may see the Charter as a selling point
of
the Union. Constitutional
arguments may all too easily be forgotten
in
the process, and
in
that respect it is to be
regretted that the Convention has been set to work without any clue as to what it must
1. Consult in that respect the conclusions
of
the Tampere European Council of 15 and 16October 1999
and the Presidency Conclusions based upon the Cologne European Council of 3 and 4 June 1999.
2. To: fundamental.rights@consilium.eu.int
7MJ 2 (2000)
111

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