The European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail. The historic relationship between the EU and the U.S. is based on sharing, and promoting together, many of those same values of human dignity, freedom, the rule of law, democracy, equality, the market economy, and a strong fundamental respect for respect for human rights, including minority rights.
One of the core shared values between the EU and the US is a fundamental commitment to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The US is an original signatory of the UN Charter and Declaration, while the EU holds its observer membership alongside the full memberships of all its 27 member states.
In American law, the US Supreme Court recognizes not only the rights enumerated in the U.S. Constitution as "fundamental," but further describes fundamental rights as those rights that pre-date the foundation of the United States. In EU law, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union brings together all rights found in the jurisprudence constante of the Court of Justice of the European Union as well as those rights and freedoms enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights; other rights and principles from the common constitutional traditions of the member states, and international instruments. The Charter gained full legal effect after the Treaty of Lisbon's entry into force on December 1, 2009.
The European Parliament takes its role as a guardian of liberties, human rights and democracy, both in Europe and beyond very seriously.
Members of the European Parliament are increasingly exerting their influence on European foreign, humanitarian and development aid policy as they maintain close links with the lawmakers around the world.
MEPs often act as election observers in countries around the world in order to monitor for irregularities. They ensure that human rights are protected in the EU's external economic and trade agreements and award the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought yearly to honor individuals or organizations who defend human rights, democracy and freedom of expression and who combat intolerance and oppression anywhere in the world. Past winners include Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, and the democratic opposition in Venezuela.