Written by Francesca Ferraro
The European Union, like its Member States, has to comply with the principle of the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights when fulfilling the tasks set out in the Treaties. These legal obligations have been framed progressively by the case law of the European Court of Justice. The Court filled the gaps in the original Treaties, thus simultaneously ensuring the autonomy and consistency of the EU legal order and its relation with national constitutional orders.
Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, these principles have also been expressly laid down in the Treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Being part of the body of EU constitutional rules and principles, the Charter is binding upon the EU institutions when adopting new measures, as well as for Member States during implementation.
The Charter is the point of reference, not only for the Court of Justice, but also for the EU legislature, especially when EU legislation gives specific expression to fundamental rights. Moreover, fundamental rights are also of relevance for EU legislation covering all the other areas of Union competence.