Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union vs European Convention on Human Rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) are two cornerstone instruments for the protection of human rights in Europe, but they serve different purposes within different legal frameworks. Here is a comparison to highlight their main features, differences, and how they interact with each other:

Origin and Development

ECHR: Established in 1950 by the Council of Europe, a broader organisation than the EU, with 47 member states. It aims to protect human rights, democracy, and the rule of law across the continent.

CFR: Proclaimed in 2000 and became legally binding on EU countries with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. It consolidates and reinforces the range of rights derived from the constitutional traditions and international obligations common to the EU Member States, the European Convention on Human Rights, and other EU laws and policies.

Scope and Application

ECHR: Applies to all member states of the Council of Europe, including those not in the EU. It focuses on civil and political rights but has been dynamically interpreted to cover a broad range of issues.

CFR: Applies only to EU institutions and bodies and to Member States when they are implementing EU law. It covers a wider array of rights, including civil, political, economic, and social rights.

Legal Nature and Enforcement

ECHR: Creates obligations for its signatories to respect the human rights set out in the Convention. Individuals can bring cases against states to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if they believe their rights under the Convention have been violated. Judgments by the Court are binding on the countries concerned.

CFR: Has the same legal value as the EU treaties. While there is no specific court for the CFR, its provisions are enforced by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg. The CFR must be respected by EU institutions and by Member States when they apply EU law.

Rights Covered

ECHR: Focuses primarily on civil and political rights but has been expanded through additional protocols and the Court's jurisprudence to include some economic and social rights.

CFR: Encompasses a broader spectrum of rights, including dignity, freedoms, equality, solidarity (which covers economic and social rights), citizens' rights, and justice. It also explicitly includes third-generation human rights, such as data protection and guarantees against genetic discrimination.

Relationship Between ECHR and CFR

ECHR: The EU has expressed its intention to accede to the ECHR, which would create a direct legal link between the two systems. However, this process has faced legal and practical challenges, and the EU has not yet acceded to the ECHR. Despite this, the CFR and the ECHR are not in competition; rather, they complement each other.

CFR: The CFR explicitly states that nothing in it should be interpreted as restricting or adversely affecting human rights and fundamental freedoms recognised by the ECHR and other international human rights treaties. Furthermore, the CJEU often refers to the ECHR and the jurisprudence of the ECtHR in its rulings, demonstrating the influence of the ECHR on EU law and the protection of human rights within the EU.

In conclusion, while the ECHR and CFR operate within different legal frameworks and scopes, they both play crucial roles in the protection and promotion of human rights in Europe. Their coexistence enhances the legal protection available to individuals in Europe, offering multiple avenues for the enforcement of human rights.
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