The presidents of the three EU institutions tried, as solomely as possible, to proclaim the Charter of Fundamental Rights on 12 December at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Despite the boos of several far-right MEPs and nationalists, Pottering, Barroso and Socrates gave a long speech before listening to the European anthem and putting their signatures to the text.

These speeches were, in fact, interrupted by the shouts of 30 or so British and Polish Eurosceptic MEPs, who waved banners with the word "Referendum" (on the new treaty). Pottering had the placards confiscated and the broad majority of the assembly then rose to applaud and honour the signing of the charter.

This proclamation precedes the official signing of the Lisbon Treaty by European leaders on 13 December in the Portuguese capital. The much-celebrated charter is a catalogue of rights and freedoms for the Union's citizens. Article 1, Point 8 of the Lisbon Treaty alludes to it and refers to the complete text. But above all it specifies that this charter will become legally binding for EU institutions, bodies and organs, as well as member states when they implement Community law, starting from the treaty coming into force in 2009. Only the UK and Poland will have certain dispensations. As yet, however, it is not known how these opt-outs' will be put in place or interpreted. It is necessary to wait for case law. The charter will complement other...

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