Charter of Fundamental Rights
EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
It enshrines in European Union (EU) law a range of personal, civil, political, economic and social rights of EU citizens and residents.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter) reaffirms, with due regard for the EU’s powers and tasks and for the principle of subsidiarity, the rights as they result, in particular, from the constitutional traditions and international obligations common to EU countries, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Social Charters adopted by the EU and by the Council of Europe and the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and of the European Court of Human Rights. By making fundamental rights clearer and more visible, it creates legal certainty within the EU.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights contains a preamble and 54 articles, grouped in 7 chapters:
chapter I: dignity (human dignity, the right to life, the right to the integrity of the person, prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, prohibition of slavery and forced labour);
chapter II: freedoms (the right to liberty and security, respect for private and family life, protection of personal data, the right to marry and found a family, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of the arts and sciences, the right to education, freedom to choose an occupation and the right to engage in work, freedom to conduct a business, the right to property, the right to asylum, protection in the event of removal, expulsion or extradition);
chapter III: equality (equality before the law, non-discrimination, cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, equality between men and women, the rights of the child, the rights of the elderly, integration of persons with disabilities);
chapter IV: solidarity (workers’ right to information and consultation within the undertaking, the right of collective bargaining and action, the right of access to placement services, protection in the event of unjustified dismissal, fair and just working conditions, prohibition of child labour and protection of young people at work, family and professional life, social security and social assistance, health care, access to services of general economic interest, environmental protection, consumer protection);
chapter V: citizens’ rights (the right to vote and stand as a candidate at elections to the European Parliament and at municipal elections, the right to good administration, the right of access to documents, European Ombudsman, the right to petition, freedom of movement and residence, diplomatic and consular protection);
chapter VI: justice (the right to an effective remedy and a fair trial, presumption of innocence and the right of defence, principles of legality and proportionality of criminal offences and penalties, the right not to be tried or punished twice in criminal proceedings for the same criminal offence);
chapter VII: general provisions.
The charter applies to the European institutions, subject to the principle of subsidiarity, and may under no circumstances extend the powers and tasks conferred on them by the treaties. The charter also applies to EU countries when they implement EU law.
If any of the rights correspond to rights guaranteed by the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, the meaning and scope of those rights is to be the same as defined by the convention, though EU law may provide for more extensive protection.
Every year since 2010, the European Commission publishes an annual report. This monitors progress on the application of the charter.
In 1999, the European Council concluded that the fundamental rights applicable at EU level should be consolidated in a charter to give them greater visibility.
The charter was formally proclaimed in Nice in December 2000 by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission.
The Charter became legally binding on the EU with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, in December 2009 and now has the same legal value as the EU treaties.
For more information, see:
EU charter of fundamental rights on the European Commission’s website.
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 389-405)
Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: 2015 Report on the Application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (COM(2016) 265 final, 18.5.2016)
Putting the Charter of Fundamental Rights into practice
Commission communication (COM(2010) 573 final) – Strategy for the effective implementation of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights
It presents the European Commission’s strategy for effectively applying the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
It reflects on the role of fundamental rights in the legislative process, including in the Commission’s methodology for preparing new legislation, and in the implementation of EU law.
With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009, the Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding. This new status of the charter served to strengthen the EU’s action on respect for fundamental rights.
Given that the aim of the Commission’s strategy is to ensure the effective application of the fundamental rights set out in the charter, the EU itself must be an example in order to:
enable people living in the EU to enjoy the rights enshrined in the charter;
build mutual trust between EU countries;
build public confidence in EU policies;
improve credibility of EU external action on human rights.
A fundamental rights culture in the Commission
The Commission makes regular checks to ensure that its legislative proposals and acts are compatible with the charter. Nevertheless, it must strengthen these checks within the departments drawing up the proposals and acts, introducing ‘a culture of fundamental rights’ into all stages of the procedure. This is especially important for evaluating the necessity for and proportionality of the proposals, in particular as some rights are absolute (e.g. human dignity, ban on torture, etc.), while some may, under certain circumstances, be subject to limitations.
The Commission has a methodology for ensuring that systematic and thorough checks are carried out regarding respect for fundamental rights in proposals during:
impact assessments (in 2011, the Commission issued guidelines on taking fundamental rights into account in these assessments);
preparation of draft acts.
The Commission also carries out checks to ensure that the charter is reflected in ex post evaluations of EU instruments. It seeks to ensure that efforts are made to better apply the methodology in practice. It pays particular attention to proposals and acts which:
raise specific issues of compatibility with the charter, or
aim at promoting a specific fundamental right protected by the charter.
The charter and the legislative process
The Commission’s methodology only applies to the preparatory stage of the legislative process. Its proposals may be amended by the Council or the European Parliament without systematic checks being carried out on the amendments’ impact on and compatibility with fundamental rights. Consequently, the Commission is willing to assist the other institutions in reviewing their amendments against the charter. In cases where amendments to its proposal do not sufficiently guarantee respect for fundamental rights, the Commission can signal its opposition to the lowering of protection standards and take action, including, where applicable, withdraw its proposal. Any draft amendments that may be incompatible with the charter must be dealt with through discussions between the institutions.
The charter and EU countries
EU countries have an obligation to comply with the charter only when implementing EU law. The Commission seeks to take steps to enforce respect for fundamental rights in EU countries by:
reminding them of this obligation and assisting them in the correct implementation of EU law;
launching infringement procedures against an EU country in breach of this obligation.
Information to the public
The public need to be kept well informed of their rights as enshrined in the charter and of ways to enforce these rights if they are violated, in particular as regards defending the rights of the child. It is essential that the public are aware of the legal remedies available and that they have all the appropriate information they need to seek redress (e.g. compensation). Therefore, the Commission seeks to take targeted and tailored measures to tackle any difficulties relating to communication, such as:
further information activities on the EU’s role and powers in fundamental rights;
actions to ensure that practical information on existing legal remedies is available, in particular through the e-justice portal.
Annual reports on the application of the charter
To review progress in implementing the charter and to provide for regular exchanges of views with the European Parliament and the Council, the Commission draws up annual reports on the application of the charter. These are prepared in close collaboration with all institutions and relevant stakeholders.
More information is available on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights website
Communication from the Commission: Strategy for the effective implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights by the European Union (COM(2010) 573 final of 19 October 2010)
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Table of Contents (OJ C 326, 26.10.2012, p. 392)
Commission Staff Working Paper: Operational Guidance on taking account of Fundamental Rights in Commission Impact Assessments (SEC(2011) 567 final of 6.5.2011)
EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)
Council Regulation (EC) No 168/2007 establishing a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
Council Regulation (EC) No 168/2007 of 15 February 2007 establishing a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
The Agency for Fundamental Rights provides EU institutions and governments with assistance on fundamental rights when implementing EU law.
It creates a dedicated, EU-level body for fundamental rights – the Agency – and lays down its main tasks and objectives, functioning and internal governance.
The regulation defines the Agency’s activities as the following:
—supplying expertise to EU institutions and EU countries on fundamental rights, so they can make sure any action they take or laws they pass complies with these rights,
—formulating opinions for EU institutions and governments either on its own initiative or at their request (for example on whether their actions or legislative proposals are compatible with fundamental rights),
—collecting, analysing and distributing reliable and comparable information on the specific effects of EU action on people’s fundamental rights,
— undertaking scientific research and surveys on fundamental rights,
—issuing publications on specific topics or on the implementation of fundamental rights law by EU institutions and governments,
— publishing an annual report on the issues covered by its remit, highlighting examples of best practice,
—designing communication strategies or campaigns and promoting dialogue with civil society to raise public awareness of fundamental rights,
—suggesting mechanisms for enforcing these rights.
The Agency does not, however, deal with individual complaints.
5-yearly activity plans
The Agency’s activities are based on a Multiannual Framework adopted by the EU Council which identifies the specific issues it will work on over a 5-year period, in line with the EU’s overall priorities.
These must include ‘racism, xenophobia and related intolerance’.
Cooperation with other bodies
The Agency must maintain close links with:
— the EU institutions,
— EU countries’ governments and civil society groups, such as the Fundamental Rights Platform,
— equality bodies (e.g. EU Institute for Gender Equality or the UN coordinating committee for National Human Rights Institutions),
— international organisations (Council of Europe, United Nations, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe,
— candidate countries to the EU.
Application & Background
From 23 February 2007.
The Agency replaced its predecessor body – the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia – in Vienna, taking over its work.
For more information see:
—The European Fundamental Rights Agency’s Strategic Plan 2013-2017,
— EU Agencies website.
Entry into force
Deadline for transposition in the Member States
Regulation (EC) No 168/2007
-OJ L 53, 22.2.2007, pp. 1-14
Council Decision No 252/2013/EU of 11 March 2013 establishing a Multiannual Framework for 2013-2017 for the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (OJ L 79, 21.3.2013, pp. 1-3)
Putting the Charter of Fundamental Rights into practice
Commission communication — Strategy to strengthen the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (2020)
Commission communication — Strategy for the effective implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (2010)
The European Commission’s 2020 strategy aims to make the European Union (EU) Charter of Fundamental Rights a reality for all.
It calls for a renewed commitment to ensure that EU institutions and EU Member States apply the Charter to its full potential. It builds upon the 2010 strategy.
The Commission’s 2020 strategy focuses on four priorities.
Ensuring effective application of the Charter by the Member States
The Charter is binding on Member States when they implement EU law. The Commission will work closely with Member States and support them in implementing EU law effectively, and in fully respecting the Charter. Member States are asked to nominate a Charter focal point to facilitate coordination and information-sharing. From 2021, the Commission will report annually on the Charter, looking more closely at the application of the Charter in the Member States in specific areas governed by EU law.
Empowering civil society organisations, rights defenders and justice practitioners
Civil society organisations and rights defenders are vital for a healthy democracy and for making fundamental rights a reality in people’s lives. They are facing increasing challenges.
The Commission will closely monitor and take action against national measures affecting the activities of civil society that are contrary to EU law. Some Member States still do not have fully functioning national human rights institutions, which are important links between government and civil society. Member States are asked to set up such institutions and to ensure that they have the means to work in full independence. The Commission will also promote Charter-related training for judges, other justice practitioners and rights defenders.
Fostering the use of the Charter as a compass for EU institutions
EU institutions must comply with the Charter in all their actions. The Commission will boost its internal capacity on Charter compliance including through e-learning, updated guidance for staff and training plans. The Commission stands ready to support the European Parliament and the Council to ensure that they apply the Charter effectively in their work.
Strengthening people’s awareness of their rights under the Charter
A 2019 Eurobarometer survey showed only 42% of respondents had heard of the Charter and no more than 12% really know what it is. However, 6 out of 10 respondents wanted to learn more about their rights and to find out whom to contact if the Charter is violated.
The Commission is tackling the awareness gap by:
launching an information campaign to raise public awareness of people’s rights and how to use them;
targeting the awareness of young people through the Erasmus+ programme and of children through a strategy on the rights of the child.
It asks Member States to develop initiatives to promote awareness and empower local bodies and individuals concerned.
The Commission will:
present annual reports on the application of the Charter, focusing on a thematic area governed by EU law;
in 2025, submit a report on the implementation of the strategy;
in 2030, launch a stock-taking exercise with the key bodies and individuals concerned, to evaluate progress in awareness and use of the Charter.
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights has been legally binding since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force on 1 December 2009 (see summary). It embodies the EU’s values and reaffirms that the EU is built on fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law. It enshrines the fundamental rights people enjoy in the EU. It is a modern and comprehensive instrument protecting and promoting people’s rights and freedoms in the light of changes in society, social progress and scientific and technological developments.
The 2020 strategy is part of the Commission’s comprehensive approach to promote and protect the EU’s fundamental rights and values.
the European democracy action plan;
the first rule of law report.
The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights provides data and information on fundamental rights issues in the Member States. This supports EU institutions and Member States in developing evidence-based policies.
For further information, see:
Application of the Charter (European Commission)
EU Strategy to strengthen the application of the Charter (European Commission)
Incorporating fundamental rights into EU legislative process (European Commission).
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Strategy to strengthen the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the EU (COM(2020) 711 final, 2.12.2020).
Communication from the Commission: Strategy for the effective implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights by the European Union (COM(2010) 573 final,19.10.2010).
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 389–405).
Council Regulation (EC) No 168/2007 of 15 February 2007 establishing a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (OJ L 53, 22.2.2007, pp. 1–14).
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — EU strategy on the rights of the child (COM(2021) 142 final, 24.3.2021).
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — On the European democracy action plan (COM(2020) 790 final, 3.12.2020).
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — 2020 Rule of Law Report — The rule of law situation in the European Union (COM(2020) 580 final, 30.9.2020).
Commission Staff Working Paper: Operational Guidance on taking account of Fundamental Rights in Commission Impact Assessments (SEC(2011) 567 final, 6.5.2011).
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