Previous: Primacy and competence of the European Union

The EU started as merely an economic device. However, as it has developed into a political organisation, particularly one which legislative supremacy in some areas, there has been an increasing demand for the recognition of human rights. Prior to the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, only what is now Article 2 TEU guided the EU’s actions, providing for respect for human dignity, freedom, equality and human rights. Due to the lack of a concrete set of rights to respect, the Court of Justice could only be guided by the differing collections of human rights devices set out in the law of Member States. Nevertheless, the CJEU gradually recognised particular rights, in cases such as Captain Kirk [1984] – legal certainty, M&S [2002] – legitimate expectation, Man (Sugar) [1985] – proportionality, Cowan [1989] – non-discrimination and Kadi [2008] – effective judicial protection, to name a few.

The CJEU’s dealings with human rights constituted only an incremental development of recognition for rights, limited by the EU’s competences. In Internationale Handelgesellschaft [1970], the CJEU found that Member States’ constitutional rights should constitute principles of EU law.

In an attempt to codify enforceable rights into EU law, Article 6 TEU provides a ‘triple protection’ for human rights. Firstly, the Article ‘attaches’ the Charter of Fundamental Rights to the Treaties, providing that it has the same legal value. Secondly, it provides that the EU will accede to the European Convention of Human Rights...

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