The Lisbon Treaty obliges the EU, as a legal entity, to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights, thus allowing EU citizens to sue the EU and its institutions for the violation of human rights. On 3 May the Constitutional Affairs Committee adopted a report about accession, including a demand for a special EU judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. We spoke to the report's draftsman, Spanish Socialist Ramón Jáuregui.
How will citizens benefit from EU accession to the Convention, aren't we sufficiently protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights?
With the accession there is a new tribunal for citizens, external to the Union, which should give new human rights guarantees.
If there is a complaint against the EU and its institutions will they address the Court of Justice in Luxembourg or the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg?
Citizens must exhaust all judicial remedies in the Member States before going to the court in Strasbourg. The Court of Strasbourg is an external tribunal. So if human rights protection has not been guaranteed in national courts, the citizen has the right to make a new application to the Strasbourg court.
European Convention on Human Rights
Signed within Council of Europe in 1950 in Rome
Established European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
People can bring their case to the Court after exhaustion of national routes
Does not apply to EU acts now, although all countries have an obligation to respect it
European Union countries are already represented by a judge from each country. Why do we need a special judge for the EU?
The presence of a national judge in the Strasbourg court is fundamental to explaining the context of a complaint. Let me give you an example. In Spain there are laws that sometimes prohibit the political participation of parties close to ETA. When the Strasbourg court discussed an appeal against Spain for this ban, the role of the Spanish judge is to explain the context and realities on the ground. There is no judge for the EU and when there a claim against the EU, this would be the task of the judge.
We said in our report that EU judges must always be present because we believe that whenever there is a claim or complaint against the Union about a Community measure the EU and Member States must be present. We believe it is necessary that the Member States and the Union have the right to defend themselves.