On March 18th 2017, the European Commission released its annual report on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. This report focuses on the application of fundamental rights and initiatives taken by the European Union and its Member States in 2016.
Proclaimed in 2000 in Nice, the Charter of Fundamental Rights was finally adopted on December 12th 2007 by the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission. The Charter became legally binding with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009 and acquired, at the same time, the same legal value as the treaties. Furthermore, the Charter hold several personal, civil, political, economic and social rights for EU citizens and has to be applied by the European institutions and by Member States when they are implementing EU law.
Every year since 2010, the European Commission publishes an annual report which outlined the progress being made by the European Union and its Member States on the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
In this annual report, the European Commission decided to underline the fact that the situations in Member States are evolving regarding Fundamental Rights due to several challenges such as the rising of nationalism, intolerance and the lure of populism. Indeed, the report stated that ‘developments in the Member States showed that respect for the values and rights enshrined in the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights should not be taken for granted”. In order to tackle these issues “the EU must make a determined effort to defend its common values of democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law against forces that seek to polarize our societies and jeopardize our model of openness and solidarity”.
During the year 2016, several initiatives were taken by the European Union in order to support and ensure the application of the Charter. For example, the European Union focused on the migration situation in Europe by promoting the protection of the right of Asylum (article 18 of the Charter) or the principle of non-refoulement (Article 19 of the Charter). Therefore, the European Commission proposed amendments for the purpose of reforming the Common European Asylum System.
Moreover, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is also the institution which ensure proper application of the Charter. Indeed, the Court “continues to give guidance to national judges on the Charter’s applicability and interpretation”.
Due to recent situations in Europe, in this report the European Commission, wanted to alert Member States on the importance of protecting Fundamental Rights all over the European Union. Hence, The European Commission must “remain vigilant and committer to a high level of protection”.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committer of the regions 2016 Annual Report on the Application of the EU Charter of Fundamentals Rights