Legitimacy and Fundamental Rights

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


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.


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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  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
  2. 2.
    P. Craig, ‘Constitutions, Constitutionalism, and the European Union’ European Law Journal, 7 (2001) 125–50, 141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    J. Habermas, ‘Zur Legitimation durch Menschenrechte’, in J. Habermas, Die postnationale Konstellation: Politische Essays (Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a. M., 1998), 170–92, 173.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    J. Habermas, Faktizität und Geltung (esp. Ch. 7), (Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a. M., 1998).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    E. O. Eriksen, J. E. Fossum & A. J. Menéndez, ‘The Charter in Context’, in E. O. Eriksen, J. E. Fossum & A. J. Menendez, The Chartering of Europe (Nomos Verlag, Baden-Baden, 2003).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    A. Heywood, Key Concepts in Politics (Macmillan — now Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2000), p. 29.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    M. Weber, ‘Legitimacy, Politics and the State’, in W. Connolly, Legitimacy and the State (Blackwell, Oxford, 1984), p. 33 (emphasis added).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    D. Beetham, The Legitimation of Power (Macmillan — now Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 1991), p. 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 11.
    J. Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights (1980, p. 205),Google Scholar
  10. quoted in R. Bellamy ‘The Constitution of Europe: Rights or Democracy?’, in R. Bellamy, V. Bufacchi & D. Castiglione, Democracy and Constitutional Culture in the Union of Europe (Lothian Foundation Press, London, 1995), p. 154.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    P. Jones, Rights: Issues in Political Theory (Macmillan — now Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 1994), p. 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 14.
    J. Waldron, ‘Rights’ in R. E. Gordon & P. Pettit (eds) A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy (Blackwell, Oxford 1995), p. 575.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    R. Bellamy & J. Schönlau, ‘The Normality of Constitutional Politics: an Analysis of the Drafting of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights’, Constellations, 11, (2004), 412–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 20.
    Paul M. Sniderman et al., The Clash of Rights: Liberty, Equality and Legitimacy in Pluralist Democracy (Yale University Press, New Haven/London, 1996), p. 11.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    C. Attucci, ‘An Institutional Dialogue on Common Principles: Reflections on the Significance of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights’, in L. Dobson & A. Follesdal (eds) Political Theory and the European Constitution (Routledge, London, 2004).Google Scholar
  16. 24.
    See for example F. Tulkens (Judge at the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg) ‘Towards a Greater Normative Coherence in Europe/the Implications of the Draft Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union’, Human Rights Law Journal, 21 (2000), 329–32. With the inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (with some changes, see Ch. 5) in the draft Treaty establishing a European Constitution, the Charter rights will of course become legally binding once the Treaty enters into force.Google Scholar
  17. 26.
    A. Ingram, A Political Theory of Rights (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994), p. 3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 29.
    E. O. Eriksen ‘Deliberative Supranationalism in the EU’, in E. O. Eriksen & J. E. Fossum (eds) Democracy in the European Union: Integration through Deliberation? (Routledge, London, 2000), p. 51.Google Scholar
  19. 37.
    See R. Falk, Human Rights Horizons: the Pursuit of Justice in a Globalizing World (Routledge, London, 2000).Google Scholar
  20. 38.
    See for example the discussion about A. S. Milward’s account of the The European Rescue of the Nation-State (2nd edn, Routledge, London, 2000) and the discussion of the democratic deficit of the EU (Ch. 3).Google Scholar
  21. 42.
    For a critical discussion of this link, see J. Habermas, ‘Recht und Moral’ (the Tanner Lectures 1986), in Habermas, Faktizität und Geltung, pp. 541–99.Google Scholar
  22. 43.
    D. Beetham & C. Lord, Legitimacy and the European Union (Longman, London/New York, 1998), pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  23. 44.
    M. Höreth ‘No Way Out for the Beast? The Unsolved Legitimacy Problem of European Governance’, Journal of European Public Policy, 6 (1999) 249–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 45.
    F. W. Scharpf, Regieren in Europa: Effektiv und Demokratisch? (Campus Verlag, Frankfurt a. M., 1999).Google Scholar
  25. 57.
    See E. O. Eriksen & J. E. Fossum (eds) Democracy in the European Union or C. Closa & J. E Fossum (eds) Deliberative Constitutional Politics in the EU, ARENA Report No. 5/04, Oslo 2004.Google Scholar
  26. 60.
    R. Bellamy, ‘The Political Form of the Constitution: the Separation of Powers, Rights and Representative Democracy’, in R. Bellamy & D. Castiglione (eds) Constitutionalism in Transformation: European and Theoretical Perspectives (Blackwell, Oxford, 1996), p. 25.Google Scholar
  27. 62.
    R. Bellamy, ‘Citizenship Beyond the Nation-State: the Case of Europe’, in N. O’ Sullivan (ed.) Political Theory in Transition (Routledge, London, 2000).Google Scholar
  28. 63.
    UN Declaration preamble, as quoted in M. J. Perry, The Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998).Google Scholar
  29. 69.
    See for example T. W. Wilson (Jr.) ‘A Bedrock of Consensus of Human Rights’, in A. H. Henkin (ed.) Human Dignity: the Internationalization of Human Rights (Aspen Institute, New York, 1979).Google Scholar
  30. 71.
    Jo Shaw, ‘Process and Constitutional Discourse in the European Union’, Journal of Law and Society, 27 (2000), 4–37, 7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 73.
    See J. Schönlau et al., The Making and Unmaking of the European Constitution (working title, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2006, forthcoming).Google Scholar
  32. 74.
    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
  33. or J. H. H. Weiler, ‘European Neo-constitutionalism: in Search of Foundations for the European Constitutional Order’, in R. Bellamy & D. Castiglione (eds) Constitutionalism in Transformation: European and Theoretical Perspectives (Blackwell, Oxford, 1996). The question, however, is if this process in its present form provides sufficient legitimation or if there is a ‘legitimacy deficit’.Google Scholar
  34. 76.
    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

Personalised recommendations