Article 1 should (not) link to external legal documents

By Jakub Jermar

Home Forums 03. Article I – The Federation and the Bill of Rights Article 1 should (not) link to external legal documents

Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
  • Author
  • #2210
    AvatarJakub Jermar

    I’ve always considered the linking to the external human rights charters an interesting technique of how to avoid having something like a Bill of Rights directly in the constitution. On the other hand, I am now thinking whether it wouldn’t be better to have the constitution self-contained and free of dependencies on the three external documents.

    One of the motivations is saving people from having to Google the linked charters when they try to determine the meaning of the constitution. To give you an idea, I just failed to locate the referenced Open Access to Public Documents Act. I simply don’t know what it is and where to find it.

    Another problem I can see is that those charters do slightly more than merely enumerate human rights. They also contain various intergovernmental arrangements and references to intergovernmental institutions. By linking to these documents as they are, wouldn’t the constitution cement the existence of those intergovernmental institutions? (European Ombudsman, European Parliament and elections to the European Parliament)

    I see basically three alternatives:

    1. leave as is
    2. import and combine the (selected) articles of the three documents into the constitution itself while leaving out all their procedural articles and intergovernmental setup
    3. draft a small reasonable amount of fundamental rights and put them into the constitution and have the federation accede to the charters later

    AvatarAdam Nettles

    I agree with this assessment Jakub and second it, though for some different reasons.

    The accession to these treaties is something which is commendable. However, that’s exactly what it should be. Accession to these treaties as a sovereign power, not dependency on treaties within the domestic constitutional order.

    I have two issues with this:


    Something as fundamental as basic rights should be guaranteed by the Federation itself , not legally sourced to outside treaties. If depending on treaties is acceptable for something like basic rights, why shift from the EU Treaty system in the first place? In order to best protect these rights, they need to be integrated (can even just be copy/pasted, option 2 Jakub suggested) within the new Federal constitutional order. On Jakub’s point about the cementation of these organizations’ existence, that presents another clear concern. The problem is the Federation can’t cement the existence of these organizations as they are international and depend on consent of international signatories. So, say one day every other member state left the Council of Europe. The Federation would be forced to then integrate these rights into their internal order in the end anyway, rewriting all the institutional procedures. This could become quite a contentious and problematic issue in a functioning, governing polity. It would also leave a potential space where citizens could find themselves unprotected. It would be far more prudent to just avoid this all now and add a bill of rights. It also is worth mentioning that other, non Federal signatories (some of which aren’t exactly the strongest supporters of human rights in general, i.e. Turkey and Russia) can exercise influence over the proceedings of some of the international organizations responsible for these conventions.


    Secondly, Jakub’s google comment is quite spot on. There are social implications to the fact that a google search doesn’t immediately show ones rights. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of average European citizens to locate and refer to outside documents to know their basic rights. The bulk of people are not lawyers or scholars, nor should they be expected to be. One of the current system’s serious issues is that European rights and institutions are perceived by many to be very distant from much of the people. This constitution should offer a way to remedy that. Part of this should be the creation of a polity where citizens can refer directly to a single document, their constitution, and see a Bill of Rights which clearly enumerates the rights they hold.

    Therefore I second following Jakub’s suggestion 2 and 3. Importing the rights in these documents leaving out the procedure, however also supplementing these rights if necessary/desirable. Accession to the treaties can come upon foundation, following the procedures outlined for that.

    AvatarGiuseppe Martinico

    Post-totalitarian constitutions have always worked like this: they open themselves to international human rights treaties and thanks to these they manage to update the protection of fundamental rights without having to change the text all the time. To pretend to fix an exhaustive list of fundamental rights without referring to the human rights treaties or the Charter of fundamental rights would end up frustrating the need to guarantee a high standard of protection to the rights themselves because the text of the constitutions gets old if it is not linked to the evolution of the international community. The history of constitutional law is full of referrals like this, we need to produce a document that has the ambition to work.

    AvatarRamon Maynou

    ES: Estoy de acuerdo con la opción 2 y 3. La constitución no debe depender de textos externos que podrían cambiar con el tiempo. Si la opción 2 es demasiado voluminosa puede se una buena opción la opción 3.

    En: I agree with option 2 and 3. The constitution should not depend on external texts that could change over time. If option 2 is too bulky, option 3 may be a good option.

    AvatarGiuseppe Martinico

    I can give you many examples of constitutional provisions like this: Art. 10, paragraph 2, of the Spanish Constitution, Art. 16 of the Portuguese Constitution, Art. 5 of the Bulgarian Constitution, Art. 20 of the Romanian Constitution, not to mention the Netherlands by virtue of their Art. 93 and many others. If we do not put this reference we shoudl write a detailed list of rights and this would make the constitutional text much longer, whereas one of the objectives was to draft a short, effective and comprehensible text. We can do that, of course, but we must be aware that it would involve detailed work that would make the constitution much longer.

    AvatarRamon Maynou
    AvatarRamon Maynou

    ES: Debemos evitar que Declaraciones de Derechos Humanos del Islam puedan incluirse en la Constitucion
    EN: We must avoid that Declarations of Human Rights of Islam can be included in the Constitution

    AvatarChrister Lundquist

    The current, new draft elevates the external Rights documents to «same value as this Constitution». This binds lawmakers and prohibits them from making adjustments in laws. To the latest speaker; I agree that the Constitution and laws of the Federation should be secular through & through.
    Again, I refer to my post about how Norway fixed that problem; by including links to external texts in the Constituion – without granting them constitutional value; it leaves it to the lawmakers to pick and choose in later laws. See my post and look especially at the Norwegian constitutional Article 92:
    Article 92.
    The authorities of the State shall respect and ensure human rights as they are expressed in this Constitution and in the treaties concerning human rights that are binding for Norway.

    AvatarGiuseppe Martinico

    The Norwegian case is radically different from ours, because in Norway they introduced a catalogue of rights after constitutional reforms (http://www.iconnectblog.com/2015/06/norway-human-rights-and-judicial-review-constitutionalized/), whereas here we have no provisions on rights in the text of the constitution, so we have to refer to the Charter of Fundamental Rights. If we do not recognise the constitutional value of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, we will undermine the strength of fundamental rights. Yes, it will bind lawmakers but this is what constitutions normally do and this is how the judicial review of legislation works. Courts rely on the constitution to declare the invalidity of pieces of legislation that are seen as in conflict with fundamental rights.

    AvatarHerbert Tombeur

    I propose this text for clause 3 in Article 1: “The Federation Europe subscribes the stipulations of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which rights shall have the same legal value as the Constitution.”. Full stop. No extra referring to other treaties nor to any political declaration or other document. Why? First, the core of a federal Constitution is the political assignment, i.e. the transference of some competences from the member states, of the federation and the institutional organisation of this new governance level. Secondly, such extra stipulations would bind ex ante the European Federation, yet to be constituted. Referring to more external documents would also be premature, as nobody knows when this Federation will be created and in which internal and international situation – e.g. the EU could be collapsing in a few years time.

Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
en_GBEnglish (UK)