EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights

European Convention on Human Rights


Accession of the European Union


The accession of the European Union (EU) to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) constitutes a major step in the development of human rights in Europe. Discussed since the late 1970s, the accession became a legal obligation under the Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force on 1 December 2009 (see its Article 6, paragraph 2). The legal basis for the accession of the EU is provided for by Article 59, paragraph 2 ECHR (“the European Union may accede to this Convention”), as amended by Protocol No. 14 to the ECHR which entered into force on 1 June 2010. (more...)

Reasons for the EU’s accession to the ECHR

The ECHR offers protection of fundamental civil and political rights and provides for an enforcement machinery through the European Court of Human Rights, which is an organ of the Council of Europe and based in Strasbourg. Individuals who deem their rights have been violated in one country can bring their case to the Strasbourg court after exhaustion of domestic remedies.

The EU has developed a separate legal order, with the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg as its highest court.  Whereas all EU member states are also parties to the ECHR, the EU itself is currently not. Even though the EU is founded on the respect for fundamental rights, the observance of which is ensured by the Court of Justice of the European Union, the ECHR and its judicial mechanism do not formally apply to EU acts. On the other hand, all member states of the EU, as parties to the Convention, have an obligation to respect the ECHR even when they are applying or implementing EU law. This divergence may be rectified by the EU, as such, becoming a party to the Convention.

The EU's accession will strengthen therefore the protection of human rights in Europe, by submitting the EU’s legal system to independent external control. It will also close gaps in legal protection by giving European citizens the same protection vis-à-vis acts of the EU as they presently enjoy from member states.

EU accession's negociations

On 26 May 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe gave an ad-hoc mandate to its Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) to elaborate with the EU the necessary legal instrument for the EU’s accession to the ECHR. On the EU side, the EU Justice Ministers gave the European Commission on 4 June 2010 the mandate to conduct the negotiations on their behalf.

Official talks on the European Union's accession to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) started on 7 July 2010. Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, marked the beginning of this joint process at a meeting in Strasbourg. (more...)

 

The CDDH entrusted the task of elaborating an accession instrument to an informal group of 14 members (7 coming from member states of the EU and 7 coming from non-member states of the EU), chosen on the basis of their expertise. Between July 2010 and June 2011, this informal working group (CDDH-UE) held in total eight working meetings with the European Commission, reporting regularly to the CDDH on progress and on outstanding issues. In the context of these meetings, the informal group also held two exchanges of views with representatives of civil society, who regularly submitted comments on the working documents. In June 2011, the CDDH-UE finalised its work by submitting to the CDDH a draft accession agreement together with its explanatory report. (more...)

In the context of the regular meetings which take place between the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union, delegations from both European courts discussed the accession of the EU to the Convention on 17 January 2011. In particular, they adressed the question of the future relationship between the two European courts concerning certain cases brought against the EU under the ECHR system. The joint statement by the Presidents of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union summarising the results of the discussion provided valuable reference and guidance for the negotiation. (more...)

The current state of the negotiation process

In October 2011, the CDDH discussed the draft instruments and, given the political implications of some of the pending problems, agreed to transmit a report and the draft instruments to the Committee of Ministers for consideration and further guidance. On 13 June 2012, the Committee of Ministers instructed the CDDH to pursue negotiations with the European Union, in an ad hoc group “47+1”, with a view to finalising without delay the accession instruments (CM decision).

That ad hoc group has so far held three meetings in Strasbourg (21 June 2012, 17-19 September 2012 and 7-9 November 2012). The next meeting has been scheduled for 21-23 January 2013. (CDDH-website)


Milestone reached in negotiations on accession of EU to the European Convention on Human Rights

Strasbourg, 05/04/2013 – Negotiators of the 47 Council of Europe member states and the European Union have finalised the draft accession agreement of the European Union to the European Convention on Human rights. The EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg will now be asked to give its opinion on the text.

Accession of the EU to the ECHR will strengthen the protection of human rights in Europe, by ultimately submitting the EU and its legal acts to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. (more...)

FOCUS

The European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights is required under Article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty and foreseen by Article 59 of the ECHR as amended by the Protocol 14. On 17 March 2010, the Commission proposed negotiation Directives for the EU's accession to the Convention. On 4 June 2010, EU Justice Ministers gave the Commission the mandate to conduct the negotiations on their behalf. On 26 May 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe gave an ad-hoc mandate to its Steering Committee for Human Rights to elaborate with the EU the necessary legal instrument for the EU’s accession to the ECHR.

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Official talks on the European Union's accession to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) started on 7 July 2010. Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, marked the beginning of this joint process at a meeting in Strasbourg.

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