Schabas & Pech on Human Rights in the Lisbon Treaty
Our colleagues William Schabas (ICHR) and Laurent Pech (NUI Galway) today post on human rights and the Lisbon Treaty on Schabas’ excellent PhD Studies in Human Rights Blog. There follows a taste from this tight and forcefully argued post, but it is well worth reading in full:
All Bills of Rights use broad language, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is no exception. It is in their nature. This is a valuable feature, because it enables them to be interpreted in an increasingly expansive manner over time, as attitudes and values evolve. Strangely, the broad language has been used by critics of the Lisbon treaty to concoct scenarios and interpretations that have more to do with fantasy than reality.
The Lisbon Treaty makes clear that the provisions of the Charter shall not extend in any way the powers of the EU as defined in the relevant treaties. The fact that certain Charter rights concern areas in which the EU has little or no competence (for example, the death penalty or the right to strike) to act is no contradiction. Although the powers of the EU are limited, it must avoid even indirect interference with all fundamental rights.
Fundamental rights guaranteed by national constitutions are merely complemented, not superseded by the Charter. The Charter will certainly apply to EU institutions. But it only applies to the Member States when they implement EU law. This is not reflective of some sinister centralist agenda but rather a salutary commitment from Brussels to respect fundamental rights in all aspects of its activities. How can this possibly be harmful? It strengthens our protections and fundamental guarantees.