The EU should not toy with the idea of revamping the Charter of Fundamental Rights as it would open a “Pandora's Box” of complications and be politically counter-productive, experts have warned.
Experts attending a forum this week cautioned that major tinkering with the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights – seen as a possible blueprint for a controversial European constitution – could undermine public confidence in the EU's qualified majority voting process. They added that imperfections in the document reflect a lack of consensus amongst member states – a condition that is unlikely to disappear with further debate. Gaps in the charter could be addressed in the future through a ‘protocol' mechanism, some delegates proposed.
”If we were to reopen the discussion on the charter…we'd risk paralysis,” said MEP Neil MacCormick, a member of the working group on the charter, at a forum organised by the European Policy Centre.
Other panellists, drawn from academia, EU institutions and NGOs, broadly agreed with this assertion. “Opening this Pandora's Box is the worst thing we can do,” said Aristotelis Gavriliadis of the European Commission's directorate-general for justice and home affairs. He added that the convention has no mandate to change the charter.
Panellists agreed that the charter, which has been in limbo since its inception at the end of 2000, should become legally binding, since it reaffirms common European values and is already used by EU institutions and some courts in their rulings. But they offered many alternatives for how that should be done. Some argued that it should form the bedrock for a new European constitution, which would resemble a treaty in form but function as a de facto constitution. Others favoured a simple clause referring to it in current treaties.
This article appeared in the 20 June 2002 issue of European Voice.