European Integration - Realities and Perspectives
The Evolution of Human Rights Protection
within the EU Legal System
Abstract: Having in mind the EU’s policy to rebuild the democratic systems within the former European
communist countries and its involvement in international actions regarding human rights enforcement, there
is no doubt about the importance of individuals rights protection in the European Union’s legal system. In this
respect, the present paper analyzes the evolution of the principle of EU’s human rights protection. The
research done on the EU legislation and courts’ jurisprudence shows that there are three main stages related to
the EU evolution of hu man rights protection: first – the rejection, by the ECJ, of human rights principle as
part of Community Law; second - its acceptance, recognition and protection by the EU’s judges; third - the
regulation and monitoring of the fundamental ri ghts and freedoms at the European level. Based mainly on the
ECJ’s jurisprudence, this paper tries to a nswer the following questions: What was the political motivation not
to explic itly protect human rights through the coafnstituent treaties? What was the contribution of ECJ to
remedy this situation? How the European acquis was developed in order to guarantee the principle of
fundamental rights? What is the current state of EU legislation for guaranteeing human rights within the
European legal order?
Keywords: human rights; Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; EU law; Court of Justice of
the European Union; European acquis
In the early '50s, it was considered that the duties to respect and guarantee human rights should be
exclusively borne by the Council of Europe, arguing that the European Community’s institutions,
which operated mainly in the economic field, could not affect the principle of human rights protection
(Betten & Grief, 1998, p. 53).
However, the European political and legal reality proved otherwise.
Since the first years of its existence, the European Court of Justice (further, ECJ) was asked to rule on
the conformity of EU institutions’ acts with the constitutional provisions of Member States relating to
It can be seen that, although the founding Member States of the European Communities have played
an important role in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in the
regional and international development of human rights law, the main treaties establishing the
European Communities were not included such legal provisions.
The analysis of protection of individual rights and fundamental freedoms within the European Union
human rights system pointed out that, in the first decades on the Court of Justice existence, a vast
number of individual cases raised the issue of guaranteeing individual rights, an approach in order to
analyze the facts through the principle of human rights. So, there were identified three main stages,
• the Court rejected the principle of human rights as part of EU Law;
• the acceptance, recognition and its protection by the Court;
PhD, Romanian-American University, School of Law, Romania, Address: 1B Expozitiei Blvd, Sector 1, Bucharest 012101,
Romania, tel. +4 021202.95.00, Fax: +4 021318.35.66, Corresponding author: email@example.com.