EU Accession

On this page you will find information and documents relating to the negotiations between the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe and the European Commission (“47 + 1”) on an agreement on the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”). These negotiations will be resumed on 24 March 2020.

Background

A first round of negotiations with a view to allowing the EU to accede to the Convention started in 2010, after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty (1.12.2009) which inserted in the Treaty on European Union an Article 6(2) according to which “The Union shall accede to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”. These negotiations resulted in 2013 in a unanimously adopted agreement at negotiators’ level on a comprehensive package of legal instruments setting out the modalities of accession of the EU to the Convention. However, on 18 December 2014, the CJEU delivered its Opinion 2/13, concluding that the agreement was not compatible with Article 6(2) TEU or with Protocol (No 8) relating to Article 6(2) of that Treaty. This Opinion was followed by a reflection period during which the EU member States and the European Commission internally considered how to amend the draft agreement so as to address the objections of the CJEU.

This process led to the President of the European Commission informing the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on 31 October 2019 that the European Union stood ready to resume the negotiations on its accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. On 15 January 2020, the Ministers’ Deputies of the Council of Europe instructed the Steering Committee for Human Rights of the Council of Europe to finalise as a matter of priority, in co-operation with the representatives of the European Union, in an ad hoc group 47+1 and on the basis of the work already conducted, the legal instruments setting out the modalities of accession of the European Union to the Convention. Against this background it was decided that negotiations will be resumed on 24 March 2020.

Reasons for EU Accession: still relevant today

The reasons why it is desirable for the EU to accede to the Convention are described in the following publication, at p. 13 et seq.

Admittedly but fortunately, there appears to be some harmony in the case-law of the two European Courts, which could lead to the status quo being considered as a valid alternative to EU accession. The paper below argues, however, in light of many concrete examples, that a closer look reveals that the current status quo is not satisfactory: it does not allow an adequate representation of the EU in the procedure before the European Court of Human Rights, nor is it capable of ensuring in the long-term comprehensive and stable consistency between EU law and the Convention. Moreover, giving up on EU accession to the Convention would undermine the very idea of a collective understanding and enforcement of fundamental rights. This could initiate a process leading to the current European architecture of fundamental rights protection being unravelled altogether. Hence, there is no return from Article 6(2) TEU. Neither is there from actually implementing it.

The need for EU Accession takes on particular significance when considered from the perspective of the domestic courts which, when they apply EU law, have to do so in compliance with the Convention (on this, see the “Key Questions” tab). In this connection it can indeed be noted that an increasing number of representatives of the highest domestic courts of the EU Member States publicly express their concerns about the difficulties encountered by them when confronted with unharmonized international fundamental rights which they have to apply simultaneously. Examples to this effect include the speeches below by Mr Francisco Pérez de los Cobos Orihuel, President of the Spanish Constitutional Tribunal (at p. 49 et seq. of the book), by Mr Justice Clarke, Chief Justice of Ireland and by Ms Beatrijs Deconinck, First President of the Belgian Court of cassation. It is clear that EU Accession is precisely designed to address these concerns by significantly reducing the scope for possible discrepancies between EU and Convention fundamental rights.

Recent Developments

Negotiations on EU Accession to the Convention will be resumed on 24 March 2020.

More information can be found on the following page:

https://www.coe.int/en/web/human-rights-intergovernmental-cooperation/accession-of-the-european-union-to-the-european-convention-on-human-rights