EU kicks off accession talks to ECHR
The European Union kicked off joint talks with the Council of Europe Wednesday for accession to the European Convention of Human Rights, which would streamline rights protection in Europe.
"Today is a truly historic moment. We are now putting in place the missing link in Europe's system of fundamental rights protection," said Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the EU Commission, as talks began in Strasbourg.
All 27 EU member states are individual signatories of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), along with the 20 Council of Europe members which are not in the EU, such as Russia, Turkey and the Balkan states.
But the EU's accession to the ECHR would place it on the same footing as its member states with regard to the system of fundamental rights protection supervised by the ECHR.
This would enable European citizens, "after they have exhausted domestic remedies," to bring complaints before the European Court of Human Rights, if they judged EU institutions to have violated their fundamental rights.
Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, said the EU had "accepted to submit the work of its institutions to the same human rights rules and the same scrutiny which apply to all European democracies."
In doing so, the EU was sending "a very powerful message: Europe is changing," he said.
To go ahead, accession must be approved by the 27 EU member states and the European Parliament, and then ratified by each of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
© 2010 AFP