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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2012

4 - Accession of the EU to the ECHR

Summary

Introduction

Accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has been a topic in legal circles for more than thirty years. The discussion first culminated in a request by the European Commission for an advisory opinion from the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Yet in that opinion, the ECJ ruled out accession in the absence of an explicit competence for the (then) European Community (EC). More than ten years after that opinion, the Treaty of Lisbon finally created such an explicit competence. According to the new Article 6(2) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the Union shall accede to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This means that there is not only a right for the EU to accede, but also a duty, provided, of course, that accession is possible under the ECHR. Article 6 TEU has long referred to the ECHR as a source of inspiration for the Union's fundamental rights existing as general principles of Union law, and a long list of decisions by the ECJ is proof of the importance the Convention has for the EU's fundamental rights regime. The entry into force of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which in Article 52(3) refers to the ECHR as the minimum standard for the protection of human rights in the EU, consolidates the position of the ECHR in the EU and is a manifestation of the growing importance of human rights in the Union's legal order. Therefore, accession to the ECHR constitutes the next logical step in this development. It sends a clear signal that the EU is ready for external judicial review of its own regime of fundamental rights protection. This will not only enhance the credibility of the EU's human rights policy, but also foster the coherence of human rights protection in Europe.

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