Give more light to the Charter!
Sofia (Bulgaria), 3 dicembre 2020: l’intervento di Luigi Pansini, Segretario Generale ANF, al webinar del progetto europeo “Lawyers4Rights”
Lawyers4Rights: project co-funded by the European Union’s Justice Program (2014-2020)
The application and relevance of The Charter of Fundamental Rights of The European Union and EU Legislation (Sofia, Bulgaria, 3-4 December 2020, Zoom platform webinar)
Good morning everyone and welcome to this webinar “Lawyers4Rights” project.
My name is Luigi Pansini and it’s my pleasure to be here.
I’m the General Secretary of ANF Associazione Nazionale Forense, a free, nonprofit, democratic and independent lawyers’ association; we work to affirm the inviolable right of defense, which is a fundamental prerequisite for the democratic development of the country in respect of constitutional principles, fundamental rights and European legislation.
For the Associazione Nazionale Forense and myself is the first experience in a European project with foreign colleagues and with institutions and lawyer’s associations of other countries.
So, I would like to thank, first, Diliana Markova and the Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights Foundation for the opportunity given to Associazione Nazionale Forense.
Secondly, I would like to extend my thanks to the Burgos University (Spain), to the Bar Association of Milano (Italy), to Confprofessioni and to the Consejo General de l’Abogacìa Espanola.
We all had the opportunity to get to know each other, to know the respective experiences on the main insights of the project and to cooperate for a common goal.
Knowledge and cooperation are two of the most important goals of the “Lawyers4Rights” project and at the same time are the most important prerequisite for the affirmation and protection of the rights of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
We could say that knowledge and cooperation are obvious topics, that it is useless to talk about them, but this is not the case.
If we read articles or books on the Charter, we can realize that the Charter is painted as “the worlds’ most modern and encompassing legally binding human rights document”.
Because it not only combines both political and socio-economic rights, but it also makes well established rights more powerful such as in the case of access to justice.
Because it includes new human rights language in areas such as data protection, asylum, right to good administration, the field of business and consumer protection.
Because it is more explicit on the need to establish inclusive societies by for instance addressing the needs and rights of elderly people, persons with disabilities, children, etc..
Because it was drafted in a transparent European Convention with a strong participation of national and European parliamentarians and is considered “the expression, at the highest level, of a democratically established political consensus of what must today be considered as the catalogue of fundamental rights guarantees”.
But the Charter has its “dark side” or more “dark sides”.
The surveys by the European Commission, by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and by the Council of European Union show that:
- since 2012 there has been a slight improvement in awareness of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights;
- the improvement is still very low because just over four in ten are aware of it and only 12% really knows what the Charter is;
- there are many differences across EU Member States, ranging from almost seven in ten respondents in Sweden to just under three in ten in Hungary;
- at a country level the picture is somewhat different – in 20 countries awareness has increased, and in ten countries the increase is at least five points;
- the majority of respondents would like more information about the content of the Charter, when it applies, and where to turn if their rights are violated;
- almost half of all respondents correctly think the Charter is legally binding, but only 7% can correctly identify when the Charter applies;
- respondents who remained in education for longer, managers, and those with a positive view of the EU are more likely to have heard of the Charter, feel informed about it, have a better knowledge of when it applies and the fact that it is legally binding, and to be interested in more information about it.
The “dark side” of the Charter also affects national institutions, politics, legal practitioners.
Not surprisingly, the Council of the European Union, with the conclusions on the Charter, adopted in October 2019:
- invited member States to increase awareness of the Charter and enhance training for policymakers, civil servants and legal practitioners, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and other human rights defenders, and to ensure consistency with the Charter in their national procedural rules (national procedural norms on impact assessments and legal scrutiny – instead of those used by the EU – rarely mention the Charter).
It’s therefore clear that, to fully exploit the potential of the Charter:
- judges, others legal practitioners and public administration officials must have specialized training to apply the Charter;
- training must be based on the solid knowledge of the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU);
- the European Commission should consider more opportunities for funding national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, ombuds institutions and other human rights defenders, to assist them in developing expertise on the Charter’s application and facilitate them in assisting Member States apply the Charter;
- the Council and Member States should promote more opportunities for exchanging experiences on the Charter application with dissemination of results in all languages to inform the relevant actors at national and local levels.
The brief considerations and the few data that precede are enough to understand the importance of “knowledge” and “cooperation” that I mentioned at the beginning of this intervention.
Thinking back to the low percentages among European citizens and the possible ways to increase their level of knowledge of the Charter and looking for material for “Lawyers4Rights”, I came across into a project that two German artists made and presented last year in Brussels at the European conference for the 10th anniversary of the Charter becoming legally binding.
In the framework of multi-day activities, the two artists Sylvia Winkler and Stephan Köperl, in the district of Stendal, invited passers-bye to participate in order to discuss and suggest improvements of the various articles of the Charter. It was not only about creating awareness for the constitutional text but also about adding new, emancipatory and utopian phrases.
For this purpose, the preamble and the 54 articles were printed on several large-format banners, which could be shown and modified at different locations by means of a mobile presentation system.
The corrections were continuously entered and overwritten with red and green marker, so that the original version remained recognizable, but the outlook for a more humane and sustainable Europe are emerged.
Fundamental rights and the Charter of the European Union are, first of all, a cultural relevant issue that involves all persons and citizens of the Member States.
“Knowledge” and “cooperation” are the goals that, among others, the “Lawyers4Rights” project, with the focus of the legislation on international terrorism (for Associazione Nazionale Forense, colleagues Donata Giorgia Cappelluto, Giulia Martini e Michele Tempesta edited the Italian report) and family reunification in migratory phenomena at European and national levels, intended to achieve: to know the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, identify its concrete applications, the potential still to be exploited and the limits to be overcome.
We all agree: The Charter is “the worlds’ most modern and encompassing legally binding human rights document”.
And we also agree on what our task is: to give more light to the Charter.
Thank you for your kind attention.
 Toggenburg, Gabriel N. The Charter of Fundamental Rights: An Illusionary Giant? Seven brief points on the relevance of a still new EU instrument. In A. Crescenzi, R. Forastiero, G. Palmisano (eds.), Asylum and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, Napoli, Editoriale Scientifica, 2018, pp. 13-22.
 Fundamental Rights Report 2020, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
 Fundamental Rights Report 2020, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
La foto a corredo di questo articolo ritrae un progetto di arte partecipativa ideato e realizzato da Sylvia Winkler & Stephan Köperl (nota 8)