(16) The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights


Florian Geyer, Directorate General Justice, European Commission

eu rights 1

The European Court of First Instance: The Forerunner in Using the Charter for Dispute Settlement

The case law of the Court of First Instance was also influenced by the adoption of the Charter. The latter was called upon to enforce this text just two months after its solemn proclamation.

In Mannersmannröhrer38 the appellant invoked the Charter as a source of law which needed close consideration when determining the scope of the right to maintain silence (a specific manifestation of the right of defense), protected by Art. 6 (1) ECHR.

Since the contested measure was prior to the adoption of the Charter, the latter could not be used to appreciate the legitimacy of the former.39 The solution was therefore strongly influenced by considerations attaining to the temporal effects of the CFR.40 Although questionable, the decision leaves open to speculation the issue of the (legal) effect of the Charter. It can be argued that if the Court wanted to deny the judicial application of a merely political document, it would have done so in this instance. In fact, following this judgment, the CFI started to use this text as a source to confirm or to corroborate the existence of the rights already contained in the ECHR or in the EC Treaty. This is why the Charter was always referred to together with other EU/EC provisions.41

The first application of the Charter as an instrument comprising rights and principles set out in other sources of law can be found in the 2002 max. mobil judgment where the Court argued that Art. 41(1) CFR “confirms that [e]very person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions and bodies of the Union”.42 Without taking a stand on its legal value, the CFI recognized the role of the Charter in codifying the general principles of law common to the constitutional traditions of the Member States and in consolidating the Community acquis.43In other cases, the Court of First Instance invoked the Charter specifying that this document is not legally binding. And yet, it recognized that the Charter “does show the importance of the rights it sets out in the Community legal order”.44 Lastly, in Jégo-Quéré45 the Court made reference to Art. 47 of the  Charter, not as a confirmation of what was already included in the constitutional traditions of the Member States, but as a ratio decidendi in evaluating the admissibility of the action for annulment promoted by a

legal person.46 According to the community judges the Charter, albeit lacking binding force, represents a valid instrument capable of enhancing the protection of European citizens vis à vis the EU.47 Thus, it can be said that the approach adopted by the CFI goes hand in hand with the position expressed by the Advocates General in their opinions. The Charter has almost always been used to ‘reaffirm’48 and to ‘confirm’49 the rights already included in other instruments, but some commentators have interpreted these references as the definitive proof of its legally binding nature.50 Despite this trend, in more recent cases the CFI has failed to take the Charter into account, even when so requested by the applicants.51 This discontinuity is hard to explain and in any case will not survive the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.


38. Case T-112/98 Mannersmannröhrer-Werke v. Commission [2001] ECR II-729, para 76.

39. For a similar position see Case C-105/04 Grothandel, n. 19 above, AG Kokott, where the applicability of the Charter was denied ratione temporis, having the latter been solemnly proclaimed after the contested decision was adopted.

40. See A. Barbera, ‘La Carta dei diritti dell’Unione europea’, (2001) Il Diritto dell’Unione europea 241; see also L. Azzena, ‘Prospettive della Carta dei diritti e ruolo della giurisprudenza’, in F. Ferrari (ed.), I diritti fondamentali dopo la Carta di Nizza. Il costituzionalismo dei diritti (Giuffré, 2001) 123 and L. Montanari, ‘Una decisione del Tribunale di prima istanza fra CEDU e la Carta di Nizza’, (2001) Diritto Pubblico Comunitario ed Europeo 670.

41. Case T-474/04 Pergan Hilfsstoffe für industrielle Prozesse GmbH [2007] ECR II-4225; Case T-242/02 The Sunrider Corp. v. OHIM [2005] ECR II-2793; Case T-210/01 General Electric Company [2005] ECR II-5575; Case T-223/00 Kyowa Hakko Kogyo Co. Ltd and Kyowa Hakko Europe GmbH [2003] ECR II-2553; Case T-224/00 ADM Company and ADM Ltd [2003] ECR II-2597; Joined cases T-377/00, T-379/00, T-380/00, T-260/01 and T-272/01, Philip Morris International [2003] ECR II-1; Case T-211/02 Tideland Signal Ltd [2002] ECR II-3781; Case T-54/99 max.mobil Telekommunikation Service GmbH [2002] ECR II-313; Case T-390/08 Bank Melli Iran v. Council, at http://www.curia.europa.eu. In Case T-77/01 Diputación Foral de Alava [2002] ECR I-81 the Court ruled that “it must be pointed out that that [the principle of effective judicial protection] is a general principle of Community law which underlies the constitutional traditions common to the Member States. The principle is also laid down in Arts. 6 and 13 of the ECHR and in Art. 47 of the Charter of fundamental rights” (para 35 of the order). In Case T-193/04 Tillack v. Commission [2006] ECR II-3995, the CFI referred to the Charter without mentioning other sources. It affirmed that “the principle of sound administration (. . .) constitutes the expression of specific rights [. . .] for the purposes of Article 41 of the Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union, proclaimed on 7 December 2000 in Nice, which is not the case here” (para 127).

42. Case T-54/99 max.mobil Telekommunikation Service GmbH, n. above 41, para 57.

For an interpretation of Art. 41 CFR, also see the Order in Case T-198/01R Technische Glaswerke Ilmenau [2002] ECR II-2153, para 85.

43. A. Celotto, G. Pistorio, ‘L’efficacia giuridica della Carta dei diritti fondamentali

dell’Unione europea’ (2005) Giurisprudenza Italiana 434. A similar stance (i.e. not

specifying the legal value of the Charter) was adopted in Case T-194/04 The Bavarian Lager Co. Ltd [2007] ECR II-4523; Case T-193/04 Hans-Martin Tillack v. Commission [2006] ECR II-3995; Joined Cases T-391/03 and T-70/04 Y. Franchet and D. Byk v. Commission [2006] ECR II-2023; Case T-242/02 Sunrider v. OHMI, n. 41 above; Case T-236/01 Tokai Carbon [2004] ECR II-1181.

44. Joined Cases T-377/00 etc. Philip Morris International, n. 41 above, para 122.

45. Case T-177/01, Jégo-Quéré [2002] ECR II-2365.

46. On this specific case and its (potential) impact on locus standi granted to individuals within the EC legal order, cf. in this volume the contribution by G. Sanna, ‘Chapter 9’.

47. A. Celotto, G. Pistorio, ‘L’efficacia giuridica della Carta dei diritti fondamentali

dell’Unione europea’, n. 40 above, 437.

48. Joined cases T-377/00 etc. Philip Morris International, n. 41 above, para 122; Case T-177/01, Jégo-Quéré, n. 45 above, para 42. Case T-390/08, Bank Melli Iranv. Council, at. http://curia.europa.eu, para 105.

49. Case T-54/99, max. mobil Telekommunikation Service, n. 41 above, para 48.

50. A. Spadaro, ‘Verso la Costituzione europea. il problema delle garanzie giurisdizionali dei diritti’, in A. Pizzorusso, R. Romboli, A. Ruggeri, A. Saitta, G. Silvestri (eds.), n. 21 above, 147.

51. See Case T-259/02 Raiffeisen Zentralbank v. Commission [2006] ECR II-5961; Case T-228/02 Organisation des Modjahedines du Peuple d

Iran v. Council [2006] ECR I-4665; Case T-391/03 Y. Franchet and D. Byk, n. 43 above; Case T-439/04 Eurohypo AG v. OHIM [2006] ECR II-1269; Joined Cases T-22/02 and T-23/02 Sumitomo Chemical Co. Ltd and Others Sumika Fine Chemicals Co. Ltd [2005] ECR II-4065; Case T-71/03 Tokai Carbon [2005] ECR II-10; Case T-2/03 Verein für Konsumenteninformation [2005] ECR II-1121; Case T-67/00 JFE Engineering Corp. [2004] ECR II-2501; Case T-11/03 Afari v. European Central Bank [2004] ECR II-267.







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