Accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights

Friday, October 4, 2013

The negotiating group of the 47 Council of Europe member states and the European Union has agreed on a draft instrument for the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. Through this instrument, the European Union accedes to the European Convention on Human Rights, to its Protocol and to Protocol no. 6. The main features of the agreement are the following:

-The European Union assumes the obligations derived from the three texts with regard to acts, measures or omissions of its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies or of persons acting on their behalf. States will bear responsibility for acts, measures or omissions of their own organs or persons acting on their behalf even if they occur when the State implements EU law. However, in such cases, the EU may be responsible for eventual violations as co-respondent.

-The EU may become a co-respondent in a case against a Member State if it appears that the violation alleged calls into question the compatibility of a provision of EU law with the Convention, particularly when that violation could have been avoided by disregarding an obligation under EU law. Conversely, Member States may become co-respondents to a case against the EU when the alleged violation calls into question the compatibility of a provision of the Treaty of the European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union or any provision with the same legal value with the Convention. In these cases, the EU and the Member State will be jointly responsible for the violations found unless the Court decides otherwise.

-In proceedings where the EU is a co-respondent, sufficient time shall be afforded to the Court of Justice of the European Union to assess the compatibility of the EU provisions at stake with the Convention if it has not done so yet.

-The European Union will have its own judge at the European Court of Human Rights. Hence, a delegation of the European Parliament will be entitled to participate, with the right to vote, in the sittings of the Parliamentary Assembly when it elects ECtHR judges.

-Concerning the execution of judgments of the Court, the European Union will be entitled to participate in the Committee of Ministers with the right to vote when it exercises this function. When the Committee supervises the fulfillment of obligations of the EU alone or jointly with Member States, the EU and its Member States will vote in a co-ordinated manner as required by the EU treaties. When supervision concerns non EU States, EU Member States will be free to vote. The right to vote by the EU shall not prejudice the effective exercise of the functions of the Committee of Ministers. New rules on the majorities needed to adopt decisions have also been introduced.

The accession instrument will now be submitted to the CJEU for an opinion on its compatibility with the EU treaties. After that, the Council of the European Union will have to adopt unanimously the decision authorising the signature of the instrument. In addition, the EU will need to adopt internal rules that allow it to function as a party to the Human Rights Convention. On the side of the Council of Europe, the agreement will need to be adopted by the Committee of Ministers and will enter into force when ratified by the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe and by the EU. The ratification of the instrument will effect the accession of the EU to the Convention and the two protocols.

Read the text of the accession instrument at the website of the Council of Europe. The UK Human Rights Blog has prepared a commentary.

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