A Rescue Package for EU Fundamental Rights – Illustrated with Reference to the Example of Media Freedom


Fundamental rights protection, once a side show, has become important for the EU, as proved by the newfound treaty recognition of the EU fundamental rights charter (CFREU), and the upcoming accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). At the same time the fundamental rights situation in a considerable number of Member States is an increasing cause for concern. This has mostly been illustrated with reference to minorities and asylum seekers. However, recent reports of organizations like the Council of Europe, the OSCE and various NGOs have also highlighted serious problems with regard to media freedom, such as overt political influence, media concentration, disproportionate sanctions on journalists, misuse of counter-terrorism legislation against the press, deficient protection of journalistic sources and failure to investigate violence against reporters.

While the Union is supposed to promote fundamental rights around the world (Article 21 TEU) and intensely scrutinizes the respective situations in candidate countries (Article 49 TEU), there is scant action so far in case of serious fundamental rights violations in Member States. In this respect, the defense of the Union’s foundational values (Article 2 TEU) is largely left to national and international institutions. The Commission, which is supposed to be the ‘Guardian of the Treaties’, seems reluctant to fully protect fundamental rights and rather prefers to concentrate on less sensitive ‘technical’ issues of the internal market. The assertion that the scope of EU fundamental rights protection is strictly limited is omnipresent.

Such a restrictive approach has traditionally been explained by concerns for the constitutional identity of the Member States ...

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