What are fundamental rights ?

© Unsplash/Oliver Cole
Fundamental rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to everyone in the EU. They are the same no matter where you’re from, what you believe or how you live.

These rights enforce important principles like dignity, fairness, respect and equality. They set standards for how we live and work in Europe today.

Fundamental rights are at the heart of the European project. And the EU enshrined them in its Charter of Fundamental Rights. FRA was set up to protect and promote them.

Despite this heritage, there are many challenges to the practice of fundamental rights. FRA collects and analyses data to understand and tackle these issues.

We work in partnership with EU institutions, Member States and civil society. Together, we help make fundamental rights a reality for everyone living in the EU.

What is the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights?

The Charter of Fundamental Rights is the European Union’s bill of human rights. Its 50 articles bring together the rights and freedoms belonging to everyone in the EU.

General provisions in the Charter set out its detailed interpretation and application. Member States have a duty to respect and observe the Charter when acting within EU law.

The European Convention drafted the Charter in 1999. And the European Parliament proclaimed it a year later. The Charter came into full legal effect with the Treaty of Lisbon on December 1, 2009.

When are authorities required to apply the Charter?

The Charter of Fundamental Rights binds Member States “only when...implementing Union law”. But EU law often applies at national level. It influences significant parts of Member States' law and policymaking.

This makes judges, politicians, government officials and legal practitioners core Charter agents. The Charter applies whenever they work within EU law.

Application of the Charter is central to the proper implementation of EU law. FRA’s handbook on Applying the Charter of Fundamental Rights offers guidance.