New strategy to strengthen the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights

In “A New Push for European Democracy”

PDF version

As part of its work programme for 2020, the European Commission announced under the sixth priority - 'A new push for European democracy', its intention to put forward a new strategy to strengthen the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the European Union (CFEU). 

The strategy, which was published on 2 December 2020, confirms a renewed commitment to ensure the Charter is applied to its full potential. It includes the presentation of an annual report as of 2021, aimed at looking more closely into how the Member States apply the Charter in a selected thematic area.

Four strands for actions set out the direction of the Charter implementation for a period of ten years:

  • Effective application by the Member States;
  • Empowering civil society;
  • The Charter as a compass for EU institutions;
  • Strengthening people's awareness.

The strategy complements the European Democracy Action Plan and the Annual Rule of Law report. Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights has been legally binding. In preparing this strategy, the Commission carried out a Eurobarometer survey on the Charter as well as stakeholder consultations and targeted questionnaires analysed by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

Given Member States' key role in the implementation of this strategy, the Commission  invited the Council to prepare follow-up conclusions. The Council discussed the strategy on 8 March 2021, highlighting in its conclusions in particular the need for targeted, practical actions, such as training, awareness raising for the public, proper funding and monitoring of the relevant acts, through which the implementation of the Charter can be concretely enhanced.

A first stocktaking was done in October 2021. In its Communication' Enforcing EU law for a Europe that delivers', the Commission sets out its work to ensure that EU law is complied with and citizens and businesses can benefit from the same rights across the European Union. In connection with its work to enforce the implementation of the Charter, the Commission highlights, inter alia, measures it has taken to protect the rights of LGBTIQ people and media freedom. The Commission also underlines the importance of national courts for the application of EU law considering that such courts are functioning EU courts while applying EU law and are therefore essential in the enforcement chain, and points out the national parliament’s role in working together with national governments in transposing EU directives and facilitating the implementation of regulations through national legislation. 

In addition, the Commission published, on 4 December 2023, its latest annual report on the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. After taking stock of the protection of fundamental rights in the digital age (2021) and the role of civil society in protecting and promoting the fundamental rights under the Charter (2022), the 2023 report focuses on the way legal protection and access to justice are ensured within the EU. The report emphasizes, among other, the role of national courts and the Court of Justice of the EU in ensuring the full application of EU law and the protection of individual rights.

      European Parliament adopted on 18 January 2024 its own initiative report on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union in 2022 and 2023 (rapporteur: Katharina Barley (S&D/DE-LIBE committee).The resolution was forwarded to the Council and Commission with following two key messages regarding the Charter of Fundamental Rights:

      Noting the Fundamental Rights Agency's observation  (FRA) that Member States appear to lack a structured engagement with the implementation of the Commission strategy to strengthen the application of the Charter, such as definitions of clear targets, milestones and timelines, Parliament calls on the Member States to fully implement the strategy.

      Secondly, Parliament calls for the Fundamental Rights Agency to be established as an independent human rights authority, similar to national human rights institutions and in line with the UN General Assembly’s Paris Principles of 1993, to protect and promote the Charter policies and practices from Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, and from Member States when implementing EU law. 

      References:

      For further reading:

      Author: Ingeborg Odink, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

      As of 20/05/2024.