Drafting the Charter in the Convention

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


The legitimacy of the EU and its functioning have been a concern for major actors at the European level for a considerable period. How does the initiative to draft a special document of fundamental rights for the European Union fit into this ongoing ‘quest for legitimacy’? The argument here is that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, despite the fact that it was initially only proclaimed as a political declaration, was a significant development for the legitimation of the European Union because the Charter process went beyond a debate about the specific rights-protection aspect of the EU regime, and brought into the open a whole host of questions concerning the legitimacy of the EU polity which had previously been debated mainly under very specific circumstances (during the IGCs) by a very small group of nationally legitimated EU policy makers (mostly national ministers and/or heads of state or government). The Charter Convention not only broadened and publicised this debate, but it also found a number of new solutions to old problems, and most importantly established the Convention method as a new tool for debating issues of ‘constitutional’ significance for the EU.


Member State European Council European Citizenship European Identity Constitutional Treaty 
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  1. 9.
    On the basis of the sample structure of interviewees, this distribution should be roughly representative of the opinions among the 62 titular members of the Convention (see annex for a list). Elizabeth Wicks notes that ‘the European Parliament and Commission’s desire for a binding document . . . did not prevail because the governments of half of the states favoured a less binding declaration.’ E. Wicks, ‘“Declaratory of Existing Rights” — the United Kingdom’s Role in Drafting a European Bill of Rights, Mark II’, Public Law, 51 (2001), 527–41, p. 529, see also Ch. 5.Google Scholar
  2. 48.
    Merlingen, M., Mudde, C. & Sedelmeier, U., ‘The Right and the Righteous? European Norms, Domestic Politics and the Sanctions against Austria’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 39 (2001), 59–77, 62–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    T. Bossi ‘Die Grundrechtecharta — Wertekanon für die Europäische Union’, in W. Weidenfeld (ed.) Nizza in der Analyse (Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, Gütersloh, 2001), p. 221 (my own translation).Google Scholar
  4. 65.
    The following account is based on the author’s participant observation in the European Parliament delegation and the group of European Socialists in the Charter Convention. The complementary data which is available from the meetings of the delegation of national Parliamentarians (the national government representatives met behind closed doors for at least part of the debates on 11/25.09.2000) suggest that the question of the religious heritage was debated in the other delegations, but not as controversially as in the EP delegation. Three members of the national Parliamentarians’ delegation, Barros Moura, Manzelia, and Lallemand, are reported to have argued against a reference to the religious heritage, one member, Altmaier, spoke in favour, see Deutscher Bundestag (ed.) Die Grundrechtecharta der Europäischen Union — Berichte und Dokumente, Zur Sache, 1/2001 Berlin, pp. 380–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 69.
    T. Schmitz, ‘Die Grundrechtecharta als Teil der Verfassung der Europäischen Union’, Zeitschrift Europarecht, 39 (2004), 691–713.Google Scholar
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    J. March & J. P. Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions: the Organizational Basis of Politics (New York, Free Press, 1989), quoted in Merlingen, Mudde & Sedelmeier, p. 62.Google Scholar
  7. 87.
    Georges Berthu and Jens Peter Bonde (EDD), both MEPs, did not ‘support’ the consensus communicated to the Council on 02.10.2000. Barriga on the other hand notes that only Hans-Peter Martin (MEP) ‘showed rejection [of the Charter’] but this does not seem to have been ‘registered’ anywhere, see S. Barriga, Die Entstehung der Charta der Grundrechte der Europäischen Union (Nomos, Baden-Baden, 2003), footnote 7.Google Scholar
  8. 88.
    On the role of ‘consensus’ in the Constitutional Convention, see for example C. Closa, ‘The Convention Method and the Transformation of EU Constitutional Politics’, in Eriksen, E. O., Fossum, J. E. & Menéndez, A. J. (eds) Developing a European Constitution (Routledge, London, 2004).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Justus Schönlau 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justus Schönlau
    • 1
  1. 1.European ParliamentBrusselsBelgium

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