Scholars assoc. prof. dr. Skirgailė Žalimienė (Faculty of Law, Vilnius University) and assoc. prof. dr. Salvija Kalvalnė (Faculty of Law, Mykolas Romeris University) visited the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and took part in the discussions with the judge of CJEU prof. dr. Egidijus Jarašiūnas and his cabinet member dr. D. Prapiestytė. The scholars have carried out a research “Application of EU Charter as a Standard of Individual Rights’ Defence at Supra- and National Levels” that is aimed at analysing the scope of fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter, and fundamental rights protection in the EU Member States and international courts.
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is consistent with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter, other human rights conventions, as well as with the constitutional traditions common to the European Union Member States, all of which are the basis for an essential codification process of the Protection of the EU Fundamental Rights. Seemingly, The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is a new challenge for the EU Member States, which have the primary responsibility for the implementation of the EU legislation. And, certainly, the most important role falls to the courts that are to ensure that EU citizens would have all the legal remedies in cases of violation of fundamental rights that are part of the EU law.
CJEU emphasizes the importance of the Charter and constantly applies it.
2012. CJEU decided that the sudden and radical reduction of the retirement age for judges, prosecutors and notaries in Hungary does not comply with Directive 2000/78/EC ensuring that Article 21 of the Charter (the principle of the prohibition of discrimination in employment) is fully met.
2014. Digital Rights Ireland stated to the CJEU that the EU institutions in their activities, which have an impact on the right to privacy, private life and protection of personal data, must comply with the Charter. The CJEU declared that the Data Retention Directive is invalid because it had disproportionate limitations in light of the Charter rights to privacy and protection of personal data. The Directive required the Member States to ensure that telecommunications service providers store their customers’ traffic and location data for the period of between six months and two years, and would allow the law enforcement authorities to have the access to the data in case of serious organised crime investigation, detection and prosecution.
2014. In the Google case the CJEU clarified that Google, as a data controller established in the EU, is obliged to respect EU data protection law (articles 7 and 8 of the Charter) and therefore has to comply with requests to remove links to certain personal data, under certain circumstances (‘right to be forgotten’).
The Charter provides that its provisions are addressed to the Member States only when they are implementing the EU law. As it is more and more difficult to find areas that would not be related to the EU law, a broader approach could easily lead to a situation where the Charter is to be applicable in almost all cases; and this would make the EU courts similar to the Human Rights courts, thus, having the competence to apply the basic rights. Today the non-existing deadline for implementing the Union law certainly causes a number of problems in the Member State courts.
On 10 July 2014, in the CJEU, Julian Hernández et al. explained in more detail the scope of application of the Charter. CJEU noted that in order for a national measure to be considered as implementing the Union law, there must be a connection between the legal act of the Union and the national measure under discussion which must include not only the similarity of areas or one area’s indirect impact on another.
Analysis of the cases based on the provisions of the Charter shows that, in most cases, the Lithuanian courts consider the Charter provisions as a source for interpreting the national law. What is more, they tend to apply the Charter beyond its scope of application.
The research authors claim that, although the provisions of the Charter do not extend in any way the EU competence defined in the Treaties, the courts, having a potential for a broader understanding of the Union law, should protect the rights of individuals more effectively.
The research is funded by the Research Council of Lithuania (agreement no. MIM-088/2014).