April 19, 2024

















Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice.

                                                    – The Preamble of the European Union Charter of Human Rights


The preamble proffers a glimpse of the attitude and approach of European Union (EU) towards global justice, human rights and the rule of law. Europe has played a pivotal role in contributing to the phenomenon of sensitizing human rights and promoting democratic values across the globe. However, it should also be noted that the western elucidation of human rights has been challenged and new comprehension of the concept is emerging today. It is true that to certain extent there has been an imposition of the western construction and definition of human rights and it is facing resistance today from the other different cultures. One of the definitions of culture explains it as the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action. Thus, culture plays an elemental role in practicing human rights and setting the standards of its values and importance in a society.


Understanding human rights from the European principles is essential in learning the evolution and growth of human rights. The importance of upholding the rights of the human and preserving the values of democracy have been taught to the world by Europe. European Union plays a key role in the 21st century in nurturing the European illustration of human rights and is at the forefront in defending it. EU is one of the most powerful regional organizations that is working for the unity and integration of European values and beliefs. The title of the European Community (EC) was changed to European Union as a result of the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty by the member states in Nov 1993.[1] Even though economic and political integration was the motive behind the foundation of EU, human rights gradually has become a matter of core importance in the functioning and decision making of the Union. However, in the recent times EU has been in the news surrounding Brexit, it is important to deconstruct the organization as a proponent of human rights and the rule of law.


Europe has historical roots in contributing to the acknowledgment and triumph of human rights as we observe it today. It was the region worst hit by World War II and witnessed the brutal and most heinous human rights violations in the form of Holocaust and war atrocities. The Nuremberg Trial stands as a behemoth in the development of international human rights law and it encouraged Europe in the process of de-nazification. The political transition of Western Europe from being the den of most notorious violations to the prime mover of human rights is a significant achievement. However, this transition has taken place because of long lasting negotiations and diplomatic efforts.


In 1949, the Council of Europe (CoE) was founded with the attempt to unify Europe on the basis of democratic governance and human dignity. All European states were invited to join the Council if they subscribed to the rules of democracy and respect for human rights. On Sep 03, 1953 the single most important European human rights treaty, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) entered into force.[2] Now, it is truly a pan-European document with the rights and standards enshrined in the ECHR constituting a set of common European values. It is a drawback that EU itself is not a party to the ECHR even though all its 27 member countries are. However, the formal negotiations between the CoE and the EU is informing the world that the European region is seriously concerned regarding the issue of human rights.


The charter is a reflection of a set of core values all EU countries have approved. These core values then found expression in the ECHR of 1950 and five decades later have reached the European Union in a slightly different version, in the form of a non-legally binding Charter.[3] The Charter undoubtedly codifies human rights for the EU institutions and its member states. While it does not extend the catalog of fundamental human rights by adding new norms it has at the same time a unifying effect which may remedy the notorious fragmentation of the European human rights regime. Contrary to the ECHR the Charter takes an inclusive approach towards different human rights norms. The Charter is subdivided into seven sections and gives importance not just to civil and political rights but also to economic and social rights. The another important feature of the  Charter is that it respects the sovereignty of each of its member states which is the principle rule in International Relations. By acknowledging national legal traditions besides the Charter, the EU acts on the principle of subsidiarity, which should not be confused with fragmentation.


Even though the EU has a lot of institutions such as the Parliament and the Commission who have now taken up the mantle of the protection of human rights, it is the European Court of Justice(ECJ) that must be credited with integrating human rights into the acquis communitaire of the EU.[4] In recent years the ECJ has effectively incorporated not only the provisions of the ECHR, but also the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights into its human rights jurisprudence. However, it must be noted that there is no comprehensive bill of rights for the EU.


Though EU is a latecomer in the region, it has managed to push itself to the forefront and become an indomitable spirit in political, social and economic affairs.  EU is undoubtedly facing tough times especially with the latest Brexit and Covid-19 vaccine nationalism that is forcing European countries to prioritize its citizens and their health. EU must therefore be ready to face the challenges of the time which are looking highly problematic with countries closing its borders due to the current health crisis. EU as we discussed above have institutions and tools to sustain its founding principles and values. Nonetheless, the current scenario of the globe is weakening the supremacy of the organization and thus its advocacy in peace, human rights and the rule of law. Henceforth, it will be sensible to argue that the EU is facing not just external threats as far as its existence is concerned. The threats from within the member states due to the disunity and differences in their priority has the potential to further enfeeble the voice of European narration of human rights and a just world. Thus, EU must keep in mind that the deconstruction of its explication of human rights and democracy are taking place in developing countries and in order to maintain its hold on globe order it must keep aside polarity and refurbish its causes of existence.










[1] MacLean, I., Brown, G. W., & MacMillan, A. (2018). The concise Oxford dictionary of politics and international relations. Oxford University Press.


[2] Brosig, M. (2006). Human rights in Europe a fragmented regime? Lang.



[3]     Ibid

[4]          Defeis, E. F. (2007). Fordham International Law Journal. https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2110&context=ilj. s