The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union turns 20!

Adoption and legal scope of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

The draft Charter was completed on 26 September 2000. On 2 October, the Convention formally adopted the text and submitted it to the President of the European Council. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was then presented at the Biarritz European Council (12-13 October) before being proclaimed by the Nice European Council on 7 December 2000. Some Member States were opposed to incorporating it into the founding treaties. Others, including the European Parliament, wanted to give the Charter full and binding legal force. This difference of opinion did not stop it being subscribed to by the European Union institutions, which quickly made it a symbol of governance that respects fundamental rights.

The European Parliament continued to push for the Charter to have binding force. And that is why the draft Constitution for Europe drawn up by the Convention on the Future of Europe included the Charter text in 2004. This treaty was rejected in 2005, following the outcomes of referendums in France and the Netherlands, and it was not until the Treaty of Lisbon was signed in 2007, entering into force in December 2009, that the Charter finally became legally binding. Since then, it has been a central part of the EU’s legal system, even though the United Kingdom, Poland and then the Czech Republic obtained derogations so they would not have to apply fundamental rights that are not recognised by their national legislation.