Protecting fundamental rights within the Union 

The European Union is both an association of countries cooperating in fields of mutual interest and a community of values.

The key values on which the Union is founded are enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty of European Union. They are

  • respect for human dignity,
  • freedom,
  • democracy,
  • equality,
  • the rule of law, and
  • respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

Respecting people’s rights one of the EU’s basic obligations. These rights must be respected by the EU when applying policies and programmes, by the EU institutions and by each of the Member States.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union sets out all the personal, civic, political, economic and social rights enjoyed by people in the European Union.

The Charter complements national systems but does not replace them. If individuals’ fundamental rights are not respected, national courts must decide on the issue. Individuals may also apply to the European Court of Human Rights which rules on violations of civil and political rights set out in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In specific cases, when a Member State does not comply with EU law and breaches someone’s rights, the European Commission may also bring a Member State to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights is the EU’s specialised independent body in this area, with a mandate that covers the full scope of rights laid out in the Charter.

The European Parliament’s role

The European Parliament is fully committed to the respect for fundamental rights throughout the Union.

Following up on the work of the  Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, MEPs discuss and adopt resolutions in the European Parliament’s plenary sessions on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU and on specific issues concerning the protection of these rights in the Member States.

Together with the Council of the EU, the European Parliament adopts legislation to better protect fundamental rights.

One good example of this legislation is the body of laws that the European Parliament has adopted to prohibit discrimination and ensure that people are treated equally at work.

Another important achievement has been protecting privacy and making sure that the processing of personal data is carried out in full respect of the Union legislation adopted to protect this fundamental right. 

Member States have to apply these laws at national level.

In the recent years European Parliament is also engaging more in matters concerning the rule of law and democracy. In 2016 European Parliament adopted a resolution advocating for an EU mechanism on the situation of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the Member States and EU institutions