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Citizenship and Solidarity in the European Union

From the Charter of Fundamental Rights to the Crisis, the State of the Art


Edited By Alessandra Silveira, Mariana Canotilho and Pedro Madeira Froufe

This book attempts to address an important question: where is the European project going?
As Europe struggles with the most profound economic and social crises in recent history, what happens to the promises of freedom, democracy, equality and respect for the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person proclaimed in the Preamble of the Treaty on European Union? How does the European Union intend to demonstrate its commitment to fundamental social rights at a time of widespread deregulation and an increasingly precarious labour market? How can we further enhance the democratic and efficient functioning of European institutions when there is a growing distance between citizens and political elites?
This publication is based on papers given at the international conference «Citizenship and Solidarity in the European Union – from the Charter of Fundamental Rights to the Crisis: The State of the Art», which took place in the School of Law at the University of Minho, Portugal, in May 2012. The line-up of contributors includes scholars from southern and northern Europe and Brazil, and together the papers constitute a lively and productive debate about the future of Europe.
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Tensions in the Multilevel Protection of Fundamental Rights. The Meaning of Article 53 EU Charter (Bruno de Witte)


Bruno de WITTE

European University Institute

The multiplication of layers of protection of fundamental rights in Europe (national constitutions, European Convention of Human Rights, European Social Charter, EU Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to name only the main ones) has been widely welcomed as containing a promise for a stronger and more effective protection of the rights of individuals, but it also multiplies the occasions of discordance between the various legal orders involved. The EU Charter of Rights, which is the latest addition to this multilevel regime, contains language which aims to make it as unobtrusive as possible; it seeks to offer better protection of fundamental rights within the scope of operation of the European Union but does not seek to displace existing protections of fundamental rights. The crucial provision, in this respect, is its Article 53 which is formulated as follows:

Nothing in this Charter shall be interpreted as restricting or adversely affecting human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized, in their respective fields of application, by Union law and international law and by international agreements to which the Union, the Community or all the Member States are party, including the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and by the Member States’ constitutions.

This “maximisation” clause was inspired by similar clauses that one can find in international human rights instruments, such as for example in Article 53 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states...

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