4 FEBRUARY 2003
EU'S BILL OF RIGHTS WILL BE TOOTHLESS WITHOUT PROPER REMEDIES, LORDS WARN
Ahead of a key debate in the Convention on the Future of Europe, an influential cross-party Committee has warned that the Convention and its Working Groups have not answered a vital question: what can citizens actually do if the rights given to them by the EU Bill of Rights are infringed?
A House of Lords European Union Committee has been investigating the Future of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights under the chairmanship of Lord Scott of Foscote, a Law Lord.
The Committee concludes that a constitution for the European Union is highly likely to be brought in and, if so, that it should contain a Bill of Rights. The Charter was likely to be that bill of rights.
Given the potential significance of the Charter, the report stresses that the issue of remedies for citizens whose rights are infringed must be urgently addressed. In addition, the so-called 'horizontal' clauses and authoritative commentary must ensure that the Charter does not give more power to the EU, as some fear.
The Committee also concluded that:
The intended effect of adopting the Charter should be spelled out to avoid confusion.
It should be made clear that the Charter will not fetter the powers of Member States outside the field of Union law to pursue whatever policies they choose.
The Union should have legal personality, ie be able to enter international treaties, sue and be sued, and be a member of international organisations.
The EU should, if practicable, join the European Convention on Human Rights.
The European Court of Justice should have jurisdiction over issues arising out of any EU matters, including Justice and Home Affairs and the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The rules restricting the ability of individual citizens to bring a case before the ECJ should be relaxed.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. The members of European Union Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) which conducted this inquiry were:
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie
Lord Lester of Herne Hill
Lord Mayhew of Twysden
Lord Neill of Bladen
Lord Plant of Highfield
Lord Scott of Foscote (Chairman)
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
Lord Thomson of Monifieth
2. The report is published by the Stationery Office:
The Future Status of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, 6th Report, Session 2002-03, HL Paper 48, ISBN 010 400139 9, £16.50. The full text of the report will be available on the internet via
www.parliament.uk shortly after publication.
3. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights sets out a wide range of civil, political, economic and social rights. It is divided into six sections: Dignity, Freedoms, Equality, Solidarity, Citizens' rights and Justice.
4. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights draws inspiration from the Community Treaties, international conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter and constitutional traditions common to the Member States.
5. Copies of
The Future Status of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights are available from the reception of 2 Millbank House and from the Lower Reporter's Gallery, House of Commons.
Further information from:
Clerk of the Committee, on 020 7219 4930
Press and Publicity Officer (Committees), on 020 7219 8659