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Legitimacy and Fundamental Rights

  • Justus Schönlau
Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics book series (PSEUP)

Abstract

As indicated, the mandate setting up the Convention to draft a Charter pre-supposed a strong link between the protection, at the European level, of certain rights and the legitimacy of the European Union.1 Paul Craig expressed a similar view when he stated that ‘[t]he most obvious reason’ for the EU to develop its own regime of fundamental rights protection ‘is that it enhances the Community’s legitimacy … The greater the powers of the Community, and the more they impinged on matters which were social and political and not merely economic, the greater the need for some quid pro quo in terms of individual rights.’2 The initiative to draft a catalogue of fundamental rights for the Union, and to do so in the particular process that was devised by the decision of the Cologne Council, in this sense, was a new attempt to redress the delicate balance of EU legitimacy by top-down institutional means (see also Chapter 3). One problem in this exercise, however, was the apparent failure by the authors of the Cologne mandate to recognise how much political dynamite was contained in their proposal. The EU was a complex of overlapping systems of rights, and rights protection, both legally and politically, even before the decision to add another layer to this system in 1999. The idea that fundamental rights in Europe were already so well defined and commonly agreed that the task would be one of ‘merely’ making them visible (as transpires from the Cologne mandate), therefore seems somewhat naive, but it reflects a particular understanding of fundamental (human) rights as essentially given and pre-political.

Keywords

Political System Political Organisation Democratic Process Political Order Popular Sovereignty 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Within the scope of this book, the notions of ‘fundamental rights’ and ‘human rights’ will be used interchangeably unless explicitly stated otherwise. This practice is common in the EU context and while in some cases the distinction is necessary because ‘“fundamental rights” … includes a number of rights which can quite properly be invoked for the protection of legal as well as natural persons’, in the general discussion this distinction is not of major relevance. See J. Shaw, Law of the European Union, 3rd edn (Macmillan — now Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2000), p. 331.Google Scholar
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    UN Declaration preamble, as quoted in M. J. Perry, The Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998).Google Scholar
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    It has to be noted that there is widespread agreement that the European Union is in a process of constitutionalisation. See J. H. H. Weiler, ‘The Reform of European Constitutionalism’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 35 (1997) 97–131;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    E. O. Eriksen, ‘Deliberative Supranationalism in the EU’, in Eriksen & Fossum (eds) Democracy in the European Union, p. 49 (referring to Habermas 1984: 392).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Justus Schönlau 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justus Schönlau
    • 1
  1. 1.European ParliamentBrusselsBelgium

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