Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU obliged to respect rights but enforcement is a problem.

Financial Times - 11th April 2000


The Confederation of British Industry is quite right to see the proposed European Union charter on fundamental rights as an embryonic constitution. The justification for the charter provided by Mr Andrew Duff, the Parliament's rapporteur (Letters, April 1), seems to be that there is a need to incorporate a human rights element into European Union law. However, Article 6 of the Consolidated Treaty states: "The Union shall respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention For the Protection of Human Rights."

The Commission is required under Article 211 to ensure that the provisions of the Treaty are applied, although if it fails to do so there is a problem of enforcement, since individuals or companies whose treaty rights have been violated have no direct access to the European Court of Justice. I have recently raised the issue of the denial of rights to the male descendants of the Italian House of Savoy, who are still prevented from even entering their own country.

It is curious, therefore, that not only Mr Duff but many of those most vocal in their advocacy of human rights such as Baroness Ludford, Baroness Nicholson and Bertel Haarder (the rapporteur for this year's Human Rights report) should have voted against a motion asking the Commission to refer the matter to the Court, despite clear violations of the Convention on Human Rights, freedom of movement and the Treaty provisions against sex discrimination.

Before we start talking about a new set of prescriptive rights which would restrict member states' rights to conduct their own economic and social policies, we should ensure that existing fundamental rights are respected, and not subject to political prejudice or whim.

Dr. Charles Tannock MEP (Con)
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