Did you know that as an EU citizen your fundamental rights are not only guaranteed through your national constitution or laws but also by the EU?

Your fundamental rights are set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was first declared in 2000 and entered into force in December 2009 with the Lisbon Treaty. The Charter is the EU’s bill of human rights and it brings together the most important personal freedoms and rights enjoyed by citizens of the EU into one legally binding document. It contains 50 articles with substantive rights and principles, followed by four articles with general provisions, which have to be respected and promoted by EU institutions and Member States whenever they act within EU law. 

To raise awareness about the importance of the Charter of Fundamental Rights for citizens Debating Europe teamed up with the municipalities of Genoa (Italy), Gijon (Spain), Nürnberg (Germany), Alba Iulia (Romania) and “1 Decembrie 1918” University, Alba Iulia and our sister think tank Friends of Europe (Brussels) for the EURIGHT project. The EURIGHT project aims to inform citizens about their rights under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and promote debate among citizens, with politicians, stakeholders and the European institutions about the position of the Charter in the global framework of the European Project.

Learn more about the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights on our EURIGHT website and test your knowledge on the Charter in our free online course!

What do our readers think?

You sent us YOUR questions and comments on the Charter of Fundamental Rights and we forwarded them to a human rights lawyer and a politician. You can find their answers in the video above!

  • Maite Pagazaurtundúa is a Spanish politician and human rights activist. She is a member of the European Parliament (Renew Europe) and serves as Vice-Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
  • Gabriel Toggenburg is a human rights lawyer and coordinates the activities related to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union Agency For Fundamental Rights, which assists the relevant institutions, offices and agencies of the EU and its Member States in the implementation of EU law relating to fundamental rights.

Our reader João thinks that “Dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights” are the most important values of the EU and he links them to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. He asks:

What exactly is the Charter of Fundamental rights of the EU? What are its core content and principles?

You can watch MEP Maite Pagazaurtundúa and Fundamental Rights Agency expert Gabriel Toggenburg‘s answers in the video at the top of the page!

In a comment sent in by our user Peter, he expresses his confusion about the existing laws and instruments of the EU. He asks:

How does the “Charter of Fundamental rights of the EU” differ from national constitutions and other Human Rights conventions?

How would Maite Pagazaurtundúa, Vice-Chair of the LIBE-committee, and human rights lawyer Gabriel Toggenburg answer Peter? You can watch their reaction in the video at the top of the page!

Our user Proinsias sent us this comment:

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union is perhaps imperfect, but it provides the citizen, when engaged in litigation with the State, with an important safeguard.

How can the Charter help citizens? And how can they apply it? You can watch MEP Maite Pagazaurtundúa and Fundamental Rights Agency expert Gabriel Toggenburg‘s response to Proinsias’ comment in the video at the top of the page!

Christina says that for her respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights as established by the Charter of Fundamental Rights are what should define the EU. But she points out that these principles are violated too often, for example by the Hungarian government.

What defines the EU? For me, it is upholding European values, respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights as laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.The EU needs to do much more for the respect of fundamental rights and take action against member states that violate them.

Do Maite Pagazaurtundúa, Vice-Chair of the LIBE-committee, and human rights lawyer Gabriel Toggenburg agree with Christina? You can watch their reaction in the video at the top of the page!

How important is the Charter of Fundamental Rights for EU citizens?

What exactly is the Charter of Fundamental Rights? What differentiates it from other fundamental rights conventions? And how can the Charter help citizens? Let us know what YOU think and comment below!

IMAGE CREDITS: Hannah Busing
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

18 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU-Reform Proactive

    The 2000 EU Charter of Fundamental Rights- as advertised- is not important to me- being 1st a National & 2nd an EU citizen! Why?

    * Any supranational and political organisation like the EU is voluntary and based on conditionality.

    * Its lifecycle could be finite, and it could dissolve and disappear with all its laws & regulations by consensus with the stroke of a pen by its 27 Members- unlike the UN 193 Members.

    Further, I question its political agenda, the need and the desirability by any supranational organisation- apart from the UN- to augment, extend, supersede, or create (deliberate) confusion about the validity and sufficiency of the 30 original basic UDHR Articles as set out below:


    I quote:
    “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.”

    These 30 simple UN Articles can be found below:

    Special mention- Article 19- freedom of opinion and expression.

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

    E.g.- Should my comments (past & present) be deemed undesired by the DE/EU- they will just breach Article 19 and not publish my opinion!
    Nobody in the DE/EU will care or protect me- under UN Article 19- will they?

    Quote- Article 30

    “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

    We ALL inherited basic human guidelines- by way of the 10 ancient Commandments and the 30 UDHR Articles- what more is needed?

    That’s enough for me!

    • avatar

      I dont really see the point of your comment. Of course its good to have the UN human rights, but why is it bad to add a European one to that? Especially when it explicitly focuses on the specific rights enjoyed by people in Europe?

    • avatar
      EU-Reform Proactive

      Hello Magdalena,

      Sorry, I am not a political Ophthalmologist, nor can I prescribe political magic.

      Q: How to fix generational blind spots?

      The EU project got hammered & morphed- starting from around 1950 until its politicians agreed on a final name- the “EU” on 1st November 1993 (Maastricht)

      The generation who worked diligently had created the 1st ‘Wirtschaftswunder’! They based their vote- via a referendum- to cooperate on one main criterion namely- economics- not on a then non-existing 2000 HR Charter!

      A quick check on their possible average ages indicates they are today the generation of the now retired ~65-75’s.

      In the meantime, the economy in the EU is stagnant, the politicians ran out of effective options, the debt ratio is too high, there is another war, China dominates the global economy, the BRICS countries show their muscles, and the DE/EU peddles HR & free trail tickets to a young generation as the last attraction to hold an “All Welcome Union” together and even try to enlarge it- financed by its national tax base & a few (still) net contributing members.

      Good luck!

  2. avatar

    Sounds good! I wish more use was made of it to prevent even more democratic sliding in the EU…

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi Mikhail, you can find out more about the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in the video at the top of our debate and here: https://euright-project.eu/

  3. avatar

    all this things doesnt matter when our politician dont follow!

  4. avatar

    like the freedom of bodily autonomy? freedom from government coercion? freedom from interference into my finances, travel, speech, contract, etc.?? Aaaaaah, hang on a second, you do not accept such concept as freedom, of course, you are into “rights”! Then you have the power to grant them and take them away at your discretion! You are a joke. this european union and all its subsidiaries and agents should be destroyed. None of my freedoms or rights come from your sorry organisation!

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hello Ma Kz, thank you for your comment. Here are few clarifying points:
      1) Debating Europe is an independent non-profit and not a part of the European Union institutions.
      2) In your comment you refer to the importance of personal freedoms. Next to rights the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights also brings together the most important personal freedoms enjoyed by EU citizens. You can check it out here: https://ec.europa.eu/…/eu-charter-fundamental-rights_en

    • avatar

      I am sorry, but this document is as useful for protection of individual freedoms as keynesian economy for the prosperity of individuals. Every single provision can be derogated, limited or restricted in accordance with the laws of say the member state. Unlike the American Constitution provisions which are not conditional on the will of the legislator or the executive. And still under siege and constantly undermined. People need to learn to read these documents (in fact everything that comes out of the UN or the EU) and grasp, that they are designed precisely to bring the opposite end to that what seems on the surface. If I am free to conduct economic activity, then it is not up to the state to restrict that, and I do have that freedom. Look up at article 16, for instance. This Chapter of rights, just like other european so called national “constitutions” are merely tools to progressively restrict and undermine the very freedoms (and even rights, which by nature are granted and can be taken away). All written by communists and socialists, hence it is not even (and should not be) surprising to anyone. Another example is article 17… Anyone who can read with a reasonable degree of understanding, should get it in a second!

    • avatar

      I have just checked how independent you are from the EU, and other forces behind the EU. Your website only contains information and fake, biased debates over the projects that the organisations backing you up want to bring about. Amongst others, your patrons/sponsors are google, open society foundations (george soros’s infamous entity), so please stop pretending that you are something which you are not. How about we debate “How fast should income tax and VAT be eliminated?” or “How fast should the governments and the EU cease being involved in public health”? Or “Is there really any evidence in “human caused climate change”?” Or “Do we want to live in socialism/communism, and what it really means?” What do you reckon? Should we run this sort of debate?

  5. avatar

    This is probably the most important legal element that governs EU states! However, to be effective, it is of vital importance that communication is easily achieved in a forum like this one.

  6. avatar

    This reminder of the EUs powerful commitment to fundamental rights in the Charter is more than needed in times like these. Observing the ways some governments disregard fundamental and human rights, for example against LGBTQI people in Poland where I am from, it is important to realise that we as citizens have rights and ways to secure them through the EU. Thank you.

  7. avatar

    D’autant plus depuis que le Royaume Uni ne fait plus partie des Etats-Unis d’Europe, votre utilisation officielle, massive et délibérée de la langue anglo-étasunienne est inappropriée et abusive.

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