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  • Fundamental Rights in the European Union: Towards Higher Law of the Land? A Study of the Status of Fundamental Rights in a Broader Constitutional Setting
  • Allen Shoenberger (bio)
Mats Lindfelt , Fundamental Rights in the European Union: Towards Higher Law of the Land? A Study of the Status of Fundamental Rights in a Broader Constitutional Setting ( Åbo: Åbo Akademi University Press, 2007), 360 pages ISBN 951-765-346-8, ISBN 951-765-347-6 (digital)

This excellent book stems from a Ph.D. project which itself was the outgrowth of a paper about a Bill of Rights for the European Union. This book is a study of just that subject, the creation of a Bill of Rights that would blanket the EU in the full sense of regulating both state-individual relationships regarding fundamental rights as well as regulating some individual-individual relationships. The latter concept, that the bill of rights might apply to relationships between individuals is, of course, alien to US jurisprudence. The book, thus, takes on a monumental task, but goes a long way toward accomplishing it.

One might wonder why fundamental rights might be a proper subject to examine in relationship to such an essentially economic entity as the European Union. The EU is an outgrowth of the European Coal and Steel Community established in 1951, an entity at the core of industrial economies.1 Robert Schuman (French Foreign Minister) took up an idea originally conceived by Jean Monnet and, on 9 May 1950, proposed establishing a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). In countries which once had fought each other, the production of coal and steel would be pooled under a common High Authority. In a practical but also richly symbolic way, the raw materials of war were being turned into instruments of reconciliation and [End Page 1131] peace.2 Subsequently, in 1957 the treaty of Rome was signed establishing the European Economic Community (EEC).3 From the initial six countries that formed the European Coal and Steel Community,4 the number of countries that were members of the Economic Community expanded to twelve.5 A Customs Union had been fully established by 1968, and further economic integration took place, including industrial free trade with other European countries in 1973. The treaty of Maastricht established the European Union in 1993, and membership expanded to total twenty-seven countries by 2007. Movement toward a fully integrated common market accelerated under the Maastricht Treaty, which conditioned membership in the EU upon a requirement of a stable democracy, a competitive market economy, and a commitment to EU political, monetary, and economic union. The EU is based upon the four Community fundamental economic freedoms, i.e., the free movement of workers, capital and goods, and the freedom to provide services.6

What role do individual, human, fundamental rights have in relation to such an intensely economic entity? The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed that "[e]veryone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food."7 Nearly twenty years later, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) developed these concepts more fully, stressing "the right of everyone to . . . adequate food" and specifying "the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger."8 From some perspectives, economic rights precede other human rights, rights which some people view as luxuries.

In the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.9

From this viewpoint, economic issues are important in human rights issues and merit serious consideration. Moreover, the Dalai Lama's statement reminds us that the EU itself emerged from the bitter wars of Europe. [End Page 1132]

Lindfelt's thesis is that such...


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