Valuing the values and diluting the dilemma: a call for an EU framework for fundamental rights

The EU as a community of values

There are many reasons why the European Union and its Member States can be proud of what they have achieved in terms of fundamental rights protection. It is almost 70 years since Europe left behind one of its darkest chapters and started to build an ever closer community based on shared values, including the rule of law. Over the years, this has developed into an impressive fundamental rights landscape in the EU. However, the socio-economic crisis has put these fundamental rights to the test, and recent years have shown that EU Member States are not immune to regression in terms of rule of law standards. Moreover, the new annual report by the Fundamental Rights Agency demonstrates clearly that all Member States and indeed the EU itself are facing major challenges, from migrants drowning off the EU’s coast, through unprecedented levels of mass surveillance, to murders motivated by racism or extremism, as well as childhood poverty, Roma deprivation and many other problems that risk undermining the EU’s commitments to shared values.

In this sense, respect for the shared values listed in Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union cannot be taken for granted. This gives rise to a dilemma, since the European Union is founded both politically and legally on the assumption that all EU Member States will continue to comply with the core values they share with each other as well as with the European Union. The years 2012 and 2013 witnessed a lively debate on how to guarantee that all EU Member States remain within the boundaries of the so-called ‘Verfassungsbogen’ or ’arco costituzionale’, which draws the line between what is still acceptable from a constitutional perspective in a shared community of values – and what is not.

The question is not limited to the European Union ...

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