The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights is 10 years old. The Council of the European Union is marking the anniversary by reaffirming the importance of the common values enshrined in the Charta. These cover human rights, the right to decent working conditions and collective bargaining and the right to free education.

At ETUCE we welcome the political support for these core principles, and stress the central role of education in promoting these values and fundamental human rights.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was proclaimed on 7 December 2000, became legally binding with the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. enshrines certain political, social, and economic rights for European Union citizens and residents into EU law. The EU Charter also has an influence outside the EU’s borders, as it sets norms and standards that EU partner countries should follow when interacting with EU legislation or programmes. Making reference to the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, it guarantees a broad range of rights and freedoms under six titles: Dignity, Freedoms, Equality, Solidarity, Citizens’ Rights, and Justice.

In its latest Conclusions the Council highlights the importance of the Charter, which has the same legal value as the Treaties of the European Union and must be fully respected by all member states and EU institutions. However, the results of a recent Eurobarometer survey on Charter awareness, which shows that only 42% of respondents have heard of the Charter and only 12% know what it is. Within this context, the Council calls on member states, the European Commission, the Fundamental Rights Agency, national human rights institutions and civil society to build awareness of the Charter and ensure training for relevant stakeholders.

Moreover, the conclusion states the Council’s commitment to measure and combat discrimination on any ground in order to promote and protect fundamental rights. This is especially important in light of the recent Fundamental Rights Report, published on 6 June 2019, which addresses the persisting issues of discrimination and inequality across Europe.

ETUCE strongly believes in the values represented by the Charter, in particular the right to education as stipulated in Article 14. Everyone should have the right to education, including the possibility to receive free compulsory education without discrimination.

Indeed, ETUCE and its member organisations work on the right to education in a diverse society and the role of education in strengthening fundamental rights and democratic citizenship. As part of our project EU CONVINCE – EU Common Values Inclusive Education (2018-2020), ETUCE recently published a Joint Statement on Citizenship Education & EU Common Values. This expresses the need for equal access to high quality and inclusive education and equal opportunities for all regardless of students’ gender, sexual orientation, abilities and educational needs, economic status, ethnicity, language, religion and citizenship status. The project’s closing conference, EU CONVINCE: Democratic citizenship, common values and inclusive education, will be held in Warsaw 14-15 November 2019.

Click here to see the Council’s conclusion on the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Image Credit: Door and portico, St John's North by Philip Halling, used under cc-by-sa/2.0