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THE EU CHARTER AND ITS APPLICATION AND INTERPRETATION
The EU’s New Human Rights Dimension
A CONCRETE EXAMPLE: EQUALITY AS A RIGHT AND A PRINCIPLE
The Development of Equality as a Primary Principle Guaranteeing Fundamental Human Rights
Equality and non-discrimination have a special place among human rights and they have a special position in the Charter as well. Their special position is established by its dual character. First, it is a principle determining the content and exercise of all other fundamental rights and as such, it is unequivocally acknowledged as a constitutive element of international human rights law. Secondly, it is a right of a specific kind, being a precondition of human dignity. This second meaning, the right to equal treatment, in contrast with the principle of equal treatment, is the subject of broad conceptual discussions.
A peaceful Europe
The beginnings of cooperation
The European Union is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War. As of 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community begins to unite European countries economically and politically in order to secure lasting peace. The six founding countries are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The 1950s are dominated by a cold war between east and west. Protests in Hungary against the Communist regime are put down by Soviet tanks in 1956. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome creates the European Economic Community (EEC), or ‘Common Market’.
The historical roots of the European Union lie in the Second World War. Europeans are determined to prevent such killing and destruction from ever happening again. Soon after the war, Europe is split into East and West as the 40-year-long Cold War begins. West European nations create the Council of Europe in 1949. It is the first step towards cooperation between them, but six countries want to go further.
Political parties and the European Union
Political parties are usually viewed as national organisations which have local and regional branches. However, they may also have an international and/or transnational dimension. Given its immense size, the EU provides opportunities for like-minded parties to cooperate in pursuit of their aims. It also has a considerable impact upon party politics in the member states, providing a whole new set of issues with which politicians have to deal.
The global credit bubble and its bursting during the first decade of the twenty-first century set off a search for the culprits. The investigation is fundamentally historical rather than criminal. The actions and flaws of institutions and individuals are coming under scrutiny. The investigators are also turning to wider social and economic forces which in combination might have been responsible for the disaster.
A search for the causes of economic and financial breakdown has some similarity with the pursuit of the blame for the eruption of war. The analogy is only partial because investigations into the breakdown of peace can lead to indictments of war guilt. The identified person or organisation could be due for punishment (sometimes posthumously in a purely hypothetical court process) for crimes against humanity or lesser charges. Crime and punishment are not at issue in the investigation of the economic debacle.