This handbook of fers guidance on the use of the EU Charter of Fu ndamental Rights
(the Charter) at national l evel. According to Article51 of the Charter, and in contr ast
with internationa l and national human rights ins truments, the “f‌i eld of application”
of the Charter is lim ited to areas falling within the scope of EU l aw. It is not meant to
extend the f‌ield of a pplication of Union law. However, as the case law of the Cour t of
Justice of the European U nion (CJEU) shows, the Charter is a hi ghly relevant instrume nt
for legal pract itioners, including all those w ho work in law and policymaking .
This handbook of fers a practic al orientation o n the scope of the Char ter. It is not
meant to deal with all det ails or to be complete. While it is based o n the case law of
the CJEU, it cannot repl ace a case-by-case assessment and the need to con sult legal
services as appro priate.
The “defensive” nature of the Charter
Whereas the Charte r is phrased in “competence neutral” lan guage, it does not apply
to areas where the EU has nothi ng to say. Moreover, various provisions in EU primar y
law underline tha t the Charter is not meant to have the effect of sh ifting powers at
the expense of the M ember States:
“In order to preclude an ex tension of the European Un ion’s powers
in relation to the Member States, Ar ticle51(1) of the Charter of
Fundamental Right s provides in particu lar that
the application of the Charter must not restric t the principle of
subsidiarity (f‌irst sentence of Ar ticle51(1)),
the Member States are bound by the Charter only when they are
implementing EU law (f‌irst senten ce of Article51(1)),

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