The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, 20 years later

AuthorMichael O'Flaherty
EU Agency for Fundamental Rights
Good morning. Thank you very much, I am very glad to be with you.
I am conscious, in the presence of Paco Fonseca, that I am in the pres-
ence of one of the architects of the modern fundamental rights system of
the EU, and this should be acknowledged and duly respected.
But dear friends, look at how we are meeting: our Chair is wearing his
mask, as he must; we are all virtually distanced; we live in very strange
times. They are also very strange times for fundamental and human
rights. COVID has rapidly increased the fundamental rights challenges
for not only all of us, but for those who are most vulnerable on the edges
of our societies. I say this right at the beginning, because if we talk about
an instrument, a Charter of Fundamental Rights, we are talking about
it in terms of its impact for social change, and the challenge today is so
enormous: to seek to achieve that in the context of a pandemic.
The instrument itself, the Charter, was set up with very great ambi-
tions, to tackle the great issues of the moment. Let me quote to you from
the President of the European Court of Justice just last year, Koen Len-
aerts. He said: «the entry into force of the Charter as a source of primary
Union law is one of the most important achievements in the history of
European integration. It shows that the European integration project is
more than an internal market. The EU is, f‌irst and foremost, a union of
democracies, a union of justice, a union of rights and values which draws
on the constitutional traditions common to the Member States». But I
could also paraphrase Article 1 of the Charter, which says that it puts the
defense of human dignity at the heart of the Union.
1 This text is the transcript of the presentation delivered on September 28, 2021.

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