The European Community (EC) has expressed through treaty provision and case law that the protection of the fundamental rights of EC citizens is vitally important. However, the EC itself is not currently bound to a set of agreed fundamental rights. For years, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has respected and protected fundamental rights by considering the position of state constitutions and the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Yet, the ECJ is not bound to follow these. It is not bound to the ECHR, as it is not a signatory.
In 1999, when the member states of the EC also drew up the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights as part of the new constitution. However the documents have not been formally agreed upon and therefore do not bind the EC or its member states.
With this the ECJ has had no formal grounds on which to make its decisions and has therefore had to look outside the EC and into other sources of European law.
The ECHR, although not signed by the EU as one body, is signed by all 25 members of EU and has a great deal of standing in each signatory state. The ECJ, when making its decisions has demonstrated that the ECHR is a valuable source. For example in the early case of Nold the ECJ examines the status of fundamental rights considering “in particular the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights…”. However, the situation has not changed much, as is demonstrated in a recent case where the ECJ states:
“the court draws inspiration from [treaties the member states are signatories to]…the ECHR has special significance in this respect”.
The court also makes reference to the importance of ECHR case law.
What is clear from this is that the terms of the ECHR act as significant guidance for the ECJ when making their judgements in fundamental rights cases. A significant reason for this may be connected to the article in the EC treaty that recognises the importance of the ECHR based on the joint...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document