Convention Control over the Application of Union Law by National Judges: the Case for a Wholistic Approach to Fundamental Rights

The main ideas developed in this new publication can be described as follows:

  1. In the vast majority of cases, the effects of EU fundamental rights are being felt at domestic level, as the result of the application of Union law by national courts. This application comes within the scope of the European Convention on Human Rights and can therefore give rise to scrutiny by the ECtHR, as illustrated by a well-established line of case-law.
  2. As a result, national judges must apply EU law in conformity with the Convention. They bear the brunt of any lack of consistency in the protection of fundamental rights, because it is at domestic level that these two sets of norms come together.
  3. Consequently, the consideration of the effects of EU fundamental rights cannot stop at the border of the EU legal system and ignore the impact of the Convention on the application of EU law at domestic level. A wholistic approach is required instead.
  4. Such a wholistic approach is designed to identify convergencies and divergencies between the Convention and Union law, and be clear about them, with a view to facilitating the job of national judges, who must ensure that the EU protection level does not fall below the Convention level.
  5. It is not accurate to assume general convergence between the Convention and Union law. The picture is much more differentiated, with areas offering a high level of convergence (e.g. procedural rights, judicial independence) and others not (e.g. ne bis in idem, European arrest warrant).
  6. Several divergencies are rooted in methodological discrepancies. Some have an impact on the level of protection offered by fundamental rights.
  7. That said, the Convention ensures only a common minimum protection level, thus allowing that level to be raised. Consequently, unlike a lower or unclear EU protection level, a higher EU protection level is not problematic from a Convention point of view.

Detailed explanations of these considerations can be found in the enclosed paper.