Monday

4th Mar 2024

EU charter creating 'confusion' on human rights

Two years after the European Charter of Fundamental Rights became part of the EU treaty, its confusing application has created problems for press freedom, minority and asylum seekers' rights, human rights czar Thomas Hammarberg told this website.

The EU charter covers much of the same rights enshrined in an older European Convention on Human Rights, which applies to all 48 members of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe and its European Court of Human Rights - an appeal body of last resort for people who feel they were treated unjustly by national authorities.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Hammarberg, the Council's human rights commissioner, said the EU in some cases accepts competence on technical issues but not political issues, hampering his work.

"The most striking example was the media law in Hungary. We were outmanoeuvred by the European Commission, who accepted a few changes to the law and then Budapest proclaimed that the issue had been settled. But there are still freedom-of-the-press problems with that law," he told this website following a hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday (10 November).

The media-gag dispute erupted earlier this year shortly after Budapest took over the rotating EU presidency.

An outcry by MEPs and some EU capitals pushed the commission to take action. A commission warning letter saw Hungary make some minor amendments to the bill. Brussels and Budapest quickly made peace and the EU's seal of approval gave Budapest an excuse to ignore the Council of Europe's concerns.

"Because of that, they [Hungary] lost any interest in a dialogue with the Council of Europe. I'm not saying they would have listened, but at least we could have expressed our disagreement," Hammarberg explained.

He flagged up a similar case in 2010 on French expulsions of Roma.

The EU intially said the policy was based on ethnic profiling, which violates the EU charter. But it later backed down saying there was no legal basis to take France to the European Court of Justice.

And with 2,000 refugees from Africa having drowned in the Mediterranean this year trying to reach Europe's shores, EU's human rights record is severely tarnished, he said.

Hammarberg noted that the terminology in EU documents - "human rights" and "fundamental rights" - also causes mix-ups.

"One wonders what 'fundamental' is - only the most important of the human rights? When I discuss it now with EU experts, they say it's still all human rights, but this is a bit confusing," he said.

He urged EU institutions to join the other 48 national members of the Strasbourg court: "This step is important also symbolically, so as to have the notion of one human rights legal system. Because now, there is a risk people see it as two distinct systems."

Negotiations on move - which would put all EU institutions and lawmaking process under the scrutiny of the human rights court - began in 2010 but are expected to last at least five years.

EUobserver understands that France and Britain are currently stalling the process because they disagree on the structure of voting rights in the Strsbourg-based Council. The UK - currently the six-month rotating chairman of the Council - has opted to focus on refroming its cout rather than pressing ahead with EU accession talks.

EU executive leaves Roma problem to France

One year after EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding compared France to Nazi Germany over its expulsions of Roma, she has opted to keep silent on reports that little has changed.

'Outdated' rules bar MEP from entering plenary with child

During a plenary session in Strasbourg, an MEP was denied access to the chamber because he was carrying his young child, due to unforeseen circumstances. The episode shows parliament's rules need to be updated, several MEPs told EUobserver.

EU Commission clears Poland's access to up to €137bn EU funds

The European Commission has legally paved the way for Poland to access up to €137bn EU funds, following Donald Tusk's government's efforts to strengthen the independence of their judiciary and restore the rule of law in the country.

Latest News

  1. EU socialists fight battle on two fronts in election campaign
  2. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit
  3. 'Outdated' rules bar MEP from entering plenary with child
  4. Commission plays down row over Rwanda minerals pact
  5. EU socialists set to anoint placeholder candidate
  6. Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?
  7. Deepfake dystopia — Russia's disinformation in Spain and Italy
  8. Putin's nuclear riposte to Macron fails to impress EU diplomats

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us