Article 1 - Human dignity
Article 2 - Right to life
Article 3 - Right to integrity of the person
Article 5 - Slavery / Forced Labour
Article 15 - Freedom to choose an occupation and right to engage in work
Article 16 - Freedom to conduct a business
Article 17 - Right to property
Article 31 - Fair and just working conditions
Article 32 - Prohibition of child labour and protection of young people at work
Key facts of the case:
External relations — Agreement in the form of an Exchange of Letters between the European Union and Morocco — Reciprocal liberalisation of agricultural products, processed agricultural products, fish and fishery products — Application of the agreement to Western Sahara — Polisario Front — Action for annulment — Capacity to bring legal proceedings — Direct and individual concern — Admissibility — Conformity with international law — Obligation to state reasons — Rights of defence.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the General Court (Eighth Chamber) hereby:
129) The Front Polisario takes the view that the Council’s obligation to consult it derives from Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In that context, it relies on Article 220(1) TFEU which provides as follows:
‘The Union shall establish all appropriate forms of cooperation with the organs of the United Nations and its specialised agencies, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The Union shall also maintain such relations as are appropriate with other international organisations.’
132) It should be recalled that although Article 41(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights provides that every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions and bodies of the Union, Article 41(2)(a) thereof provides that that right includes the right of every person to be heard, before any individual measure which would affect him or her adversely is taken. Thus, the wording of that provision only concerns individual measures.
145) It is true, as the Front Polisario states, that Article 6 TEU provides that the Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, while under Article 67 TFEU, the Union constitutes an area of freedom, security and justice with respect for fundamental rights and the different legal systems and traditions of the Member States.
146) However, no absolute prohibition derives, either from those provisions or from those of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which precludes the EU from concluding an agreement with a third State on trade in agricultural products, processed agricultural products, fish and fishery products which may also be applied to a territory controlled by that third State, even though its sovereignty over that territory has not been internationally recognised.
227) In that connection, although it is true, as stated in paragraph 146 above, that it does not follow from the Charter of Fundamental Rights, relied on by the applicant in its third plea, that the European Union is subject to an absolute prohibition on concluding an agreement which may be applicable on disputed territory, the fact remains that the protection of fundamental rights of the population of such a territory is of particular importance and is, therefore, a question that the Council must examine before the approval of such an agreement.
228) In particular, as regards an agreement to facilitate, inter alia, the export to the European Union of various products originating in the territory concerned, the Council must examine, carefully and impartially, all the relevant facts in order to ensure that the production of goods for export is not conducted to the detriment of the population of the territory concerned, or entails infringements of fundamental rights, including, in particular, the rights to human dignity, to life and to the integrity of the person (Articles 1 to 3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights), the prohibition of slavery and forced labour (Article 5 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights), the freedom to choose an occupation and right to engage in work (Article 15 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights), the freedom to conduct a business (Article 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights), the right to property (Article 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights), the right to fair and just working conditions and the prohibition of child labour and protection of young people at work (Articles 31 and 32 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights).