EU Accession to the ECHR

The institutions are beginning to wind themselves up to think about this issue and there are a number of documents now floating around on the subject. You may have already picked up on the Commission’s thoughts – there is a press release (IP/10/291) and memo (MEMO/10/84)

The European Parliament has also been considering the matter, and there are contributions from 3 different committees:- a draft report from the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and two draft opinions for that committee from the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs – draft opinion for the Committee on Constitutional Affairs. At some point, the EP will presumably have to consider this lot.

Anyway, it takes two to tango, so we might want to consider the position of the ECHR which as originally drafted envisaged state parties only. Protocol 14 to the ECHR contains a provision which would allow the EU to accede to the Convention (amending Article 59 of the ECHR). Following Russia’s ratification of the protocol in February, the protocol seems set to enter into force on 1 June 2010. Whilst the protocol allows for EU membership, we do not get much sense of how the two systems and, crucially, the two courts will interact from the bald statement in the protocol. Mr Serhiy Holovaty, Vice chairperson of the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly has given a speech (18/03/10) at the Hearing on the institutional aspects of the European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rightson (his) view of how the two systems might interrelate:
http://www.assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2010/intervention_Holovaty_%20E.pdf
Given the current delays in cases before the ECHR, it is questionable whether accession to the ECHR will significantly add to the effective protection of rights, given that the speed of judicial process is an element of that effectiveness. The Council of Europe is however reviewing the future of the European Court of Human Rights to try to improve its workings further.

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