The Court of Justice of the European Union as a Fundamental Rights Tribunal: Challenges for the Effective Delivery of Fundamental Rights in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice

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29 August 2012

This paper reflects on the challenges facing the effective implementation of the new EU fundamental rights architecture that emerged from the Lisbon Treaty. Particular attention is paid to the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and its ability to function as a ‘fundamental rights tribunal’. The paper first analyses the praxis of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and its long-standing experience in overseeing the practical implementation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Against this analysis, it then examines the readiness of the CJEU to live up to its consolidated and strengthened mandate on fundamental rights as one of the prime guarantors of the effective implementation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. We specifically review the role of ‘third-party interventions’ by non-governmental organisations, international and regional human rights actors as well as ‘interim relief measures’ when ensuring effective judicial protection of vulnerable individuals in cases of alleged violations of fundamental human rights. To flesh out our arguments, we rely on examples within the scope of the relatively new and complex domain of EU legislation, the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ), and its immigration, external border and asylum policies. In view of the fundamental rights-sensitive nature of these domains, which often encounter shifts of accountability and responsibility in their practical application, and the Lisbon Treaty’s expansion of the jurisdiction of the CJEU to interpret and review EU AFSJ legislation, this area can be seen as an excellent test case for the analyses at hand. The final section puts forth a set of policy suggestions that can assist the CJEU in the process of adjusting itself to the new fundamental rights context in a post-Lisbon Treaty setting.

Sergio Carrera is Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Justice and Home Affairs Section at CEPS in Brussels. Marie De Somer is an INCOOP Research Assistant in the same section. Bilyana Petkova is a PhD candidate and Teaching Assistant at the University of Kent at Brussels.