No. Currently, fundamental rights on controlling artificial intelligence, safeguarding truth and protecting working conditions in times of globalization cannot be found at all in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This is due to the fact that, when the Charter was drafted more than twenty years ago, these topics were not yet of great public concern. While the Charter mentions environmental protection and data protection (Articles 1 and 2), it does not protect individuals from damage caused by energy or technology companies.
Fundamental rights alone have little effect; they are not even suitable for feeling good. They only work if you enforce them. If people do that by going to court for a healthy environment or against manipulation, uncontrolled artificial intelligences, lies in politics and human rights violations in world trade - then a Europe would emerge in which we could feel more comfortable than we do today.
Both are important. Imagine if there were no right to freedom of expression. Who would then say that such a right is nonsensical as long as people are still discriminated against? It is important to demand all existing fundamental rights, and at the same time to formulate new fundamental rights for new challenges.
When it comes to rights being utopian, one must distinguish between two levels. On the one hand, the adoption of the rights, and on the other, their implementation.
Fundamental rights can become law by means of a convention, which is summoned by a majority of Member States. In this convention, Member States must approve the rights unanimously. While this constitutes a burden, it is not insuperable.
The full implementation of fundamental rights, however, remains utopian. The sentence ‘Human dignity is inviolable’ does not, albeit forming the first article of the German constitution, change the reality that human dignity is, in fact, violated on a regular basis. Still, the sentence serves as guidance for governmental and individual actions and is – in some cases – enforceable in court.
The European Union provides for a procedure to amend the Charter of Fundamental Rights, a European Convention (Art. 48 of the Lisbon Treaties). It can be convened by a simple majority of the EU member states, i.e. at least 14 countries. Our goal is, among other things, to collect as many signatures as possible to place the fundamental rights issue on the agenda of the Convention. There is no fixed number of signatures for this. The more, the better. A starting point could be the European Citizens' Initiative (see next question). It requires at least one million signatures from at least seven EU member states.
With the European Citizens' Initiative you can only initiate the amendment of European secondary law, i.e. simple laws (in the EU these are called " regulations " and " directives "). However, we would like to change primary law, i.e. the foundations of the EU, namely the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This is not possible with the European Citizens' Initiative.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU contains all fundamental freedoms and rights of people living in the EU. Together with the Treaty of Maastricht and the Treaty of Rome, it is one of the fundamental laws of the EU.
In 2000, the Charter was drafted by representatives of all EU Member States at that time. In the drafting-process, the authors leaned on national constitutions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The rights and Freedoms are divided into six sections:
5. Citizens’ Rights,
In which situations do the EU-fundamental rights come into play?
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and national constitutions are not in competition but complement each other. The Charter finds it most important application when the EU or its member states adopt a new law. Any new law must take EU fundamental rights into account. If it does not, the Commission or a Member State can take it to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).
Unlike national constitutions, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights does not apply in every court proceeding. In principle, EU fundamental rights can be invoked in cases involving EU law. This is however not done before the CJEU, but before national courts. If national courts are uncertain about the interpretation of EU fundamental rights, they can refer questions to the CJEU.
Of course. Everything would be up for debate in a fundamental rights convention.
For rights to be applicable in different circumstances, their wording needs to be abstract and ambiguous. This will guarantee their applicability, especially once problems arise which we cannot think of today.
The exact meaning of specific terms may be defined by the European Court of Justice depending on the situation. I.e., while the term ‘healthy’ in article 1 is based on the meaning of the word, the gravity of a violation would have to be determined by the Court.
The challenges we address with the six fundamental rights cannot be met by any state alone. The European Union is still in a position to improve the lives of people not only in its member states, but around the world, through smart and far-sighted policies. We therefore want to commit the entire EU to environmental protection, self-determination, truth, human rights and the rule of law. The goal is ambitious, no question, but it is worth it.
People often come together to form a community because of shared values. Striving for such values creates aims which go beyond individual interests. Collectively agreeing to respect human dignity, strive for equality and protect the environment, creates a sense of community.
If the fundamental rights could be put into effect as a result of a process initiated by citizens, this would rekindle the European idea, and, at best, could even create a new European identity – namely that of a Europe of values.
In theory, EU Fundamental Rights protect every EU citizen. However, since judicial action is brought before the national courts, the implementation of EU fundamental rights is, in fact, dependent on full cooperation of national judicial systems.
If a national court refuses to cooperate with the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), citizens have no access to EU Fundamental Rights. Even in Member States with a well-functioning judicial system, citizens do not have the possibility of single-handedly taking their case to the CJEU. In order to guarantee access to EU-law in all Member States, individuals must have the option to seek legal action before the CJEU in case of an alleged violation of Fundamental Rights.
No, at the latest when it affects our livelihoods, it becomes a legal issue. For a sufficient livelihood is the basis of all other rights. The state has political discretion in how it protects the environment sufficiently, but not that it does so sufficiently, as in the case of climate protection.
The prohibition of "manipulation" of people must be understood in the context of the entire Article 2, i.e., the right to digital self-determination. What is prohibited is the exploitation of personal data to induce people to behave in a certain way without this being transparent to them. Imagine, for example, that Facebook recognizes from your surfing behavior that you are sad and therefore offers you sweets to buy, or that a company uses personality profiles to identify people who are particularly receptive to radical right-wing parties in order to show them election ads - these would be manipulations prohibited under Article 2. What is not prohibited is completely normal advertising that is not based on personal data and that every person can recognize and classify as such.
People are increasingly assessed and evaluated by algorithms. The requirement of ‘fair’ algorithms according to article 3 has two dimensions:
On the one hand, it requires algorithms to be as precise and accurate as possible. While this seems simple, it is of great importance. For misjudgement of algorithms can have dramatic consequences, i.e., when they are applied by the police and prosecution services.
On the other hand, a ‘fair’ algorithm must prevent discrimination. Algorithms can enhance prejudices. If a machine is fed with data, which is, due to inaccurate methods or prejudices of data collectors, biased, it will automatically develop a tendency towards discrimination. A ‘fair’ algorithm has to be designed in a way for this to be prevented.
Yes, it is possible. In law, one distinguishes statements of opinion from statements of fact. Opinions cannot be true or untrue, but facts are amenable to proof. Saying there is no climate change is objectively untrue. To say that there is no need to respond politically to climate change is an opinion and not open to attack. The courts have a great deal of experience in distinguishing expressions of opinion from assertions of fact and reviewing the latter for accuracy, for example in libel proceedings, disputes over ratings on the Internet or critical press reports. Article 4 compels public officials not to say anything untrue. So far, they have been allowed to do so, for example, deny climate change or claim that some "forces" want to exchange Europe's population.
The article refers to the ‘systematic’ act of lying. A systematic violation of a law is a planned action. Especially the conscious, repetitive dissemination of untruths is at stake here.
Fundamental rights do not themselves provide the procedure for their enforcement. Therefore, it is up to the legislator to implement Article 4 in concrete terms. This could mean, for example, that not every untruth can be brought before the courts, but only its repeated utterance despite a warning. Applicable sanctions also leave room for interpretation: starting from an obligation to refrain from uttering untruths in the future, to a prohibition of holding political office.
At the moment, the Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligationsin Supply Chains is being negotiated at the EU level. But even if it comes into force, it will not change the fact that people in the Global South who are directly affected by human rights violations have hardly any access to legal proceedings in Europe. Therefore, it is necessary to give the right to those who no longer want to be made, mostly ignorantly, the unwilling profiteer of conditions that violate human rights, the consumers in Europe. Only in this way is it realistic that even if a supply chain law is passed, there will be legal possibilities to enforce universal human rights.
Up to now, no one can appeal to the European Court on their own. Anyone who claims that European law has been violated by national bodies must hope that a national court will refer the question to the European Court as to whether this is indeed the case. Article 6 would create a possibility that every person can also take himself to the European Court.
Let us take article 1 (environment) as an example. If a law was to be introduced which allowed coal-fired power stations to continue running for an undetermined time, this would constitute a clear infringement of article 1. In such a case every individual concerned would be able to refer to article 1 when challenging the new law.
The European Court would certainly have more work to do, but it would not be overburdened: Only "systematic" violations of fundamental rights could be brought directly before the ECJ, for example, a law that violates fundamental rights or a government practice that hurts many people. Even if this would lead to many lawsuits, the ECJ could simply be better equipped: The Court's expenses account for only 0.3 percent of the EU's 2021 budget.