(31) The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

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 The Impact of a Binding Charter of Fundamental Rights on Enlargement Conditionality

Notwithstanding the silence with respect to the issue and the problems concerning its scope of application, the CFR can still be influential on enlargement dynamics. As previously indicated the Charter mainly reproduces the acquis communautaire and therefore does not pose any application problem within the framework of accession conditionality.

Certainly, we cannot deny the existence - or better said, the codification - of some new rights (compared to the acquis) and should acknowledge that some important issues related to the enlargement conditionality are not mentioned in the CFR.

If we look at the evolution of accession conditionality, the fact that an act or a document is devoid of a binding force does not exclude the imposition of new burdens on candidate countries. This also applies to the Charter. Moreover the main parameter used by the EU in order to assess the progress of the candidates still remains the ECHR. Hopefully this could change with the Lisbon Treaty in force, since the newly binding Charter could prove to be a better and more comprehensive instrument to assess the EU’s human rights standard.

A binding Charter can also have a major impact on the “internal scrutiny” under Art. 7 TEU, especially when assessing the gravity of the violation committed by the Member State. This would ensure a better judicial review by the Court of Justice of the European Union. In this respect, the CFR could help overcome the “double standard issue” by contrasting the far too severe scrutiny applied to candidate countries with a more fair procedure against Member States.

As a result, the EU’s overall legitimacy towards present and future citizens would be enhanced in so far as the latter would perceive a more equal and fair system to guarantee their rights. Integration would certainly be favoured if the new Member States did not feel that sort of subtle discrimination generated by the existence of a double standard in assessing compliance with the human rights. The same logic applies to the international arena. The credibility of the EU on the international scene would benefit from the presence of a more consistent approach towards members and non-members. Any actor imposing conditions and standards outside its borders that are not fully respected inside its territory cannot be considered to be a reliable and strong player within the international community.

 

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