The European Union has pledged to guarantee human rights of people living within its borders. How the EU accomplishes that will be discussed in the following activity.


1. In Canada, there is a Charter of Rights and Freedoms| FR. Within the EU, there is a similar charter, called the Charter of Fundamental Rights, that outlines the rights of its citizens. Why do you think such a charter is necessary? Briefly review the rights that are covered by the EU’s charter. How does this charter compare to the Canadian charter? Do you think there are any other rights that should also be protected by the European charter?

Click here to learn more about the Charter!

The Charter of Fundamental Rights: FAQ

1. Why is the Charter of Fundamental Rights necessary for the EU? There are already many international agreements on human rights; yet in 1999, the leaders of the EU felt it was necessary to lay out these rights in an official charter, so that they can be made clear and visible to citizens.
2. What are the aims of the Charter? To reaffirm and highlight the EU’s commitment to the principles of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.
3. Does the Charter have legal status in EU law? Yes it does. It gained legal status on December 1, 2009 with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

Before it received legal status in EU law the EU could not actually legally enforce the Charter itself. Instead, the institution or organization that originally established the individual rights would have to enforce those rights. For example, the prohibition of slavery and forced labour is enforced by the Council of Europe because it was established as part of its European Convention on Human Rights. Now these rights can be enforced by the EU.

4. Does the Charter cover “new” rights? No, the Charter does not confer any new rights upon EU citizens. It merely reaffirms pre-existing rights. Each right mentioned in the text of the Charter comes from a precursor text.

Now you’re ready to move onto the third activity.


The Charter of Fundamental Rights | FR

EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy | FR

Human Rights and Democracy


That Europeans have the right to express their concerns to the European Ombudsman? It is the Ombudsman’s job to investigate complaints by EU citizens.