Agustín J. Menéndez

This article aims at interpreting the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union as a further step in the rise of fundamental rights as the foundation of European law. Doing so requires stressing the degree of both continuity and change in the goals of the legal order of the Communities. Until the seventies, Community law could be interpreted as laying down the preconditions for the effective protection of rights; later on, it has also engaged in the matter of their direct safeguard. This happened coincidentally with the evolutionary transformation of the Community from an economic organisation to a political community. The Charter of Rights must be seen as the crowning moment of this process. Despite not having being made part of the Treaties, the Charter is bound to have legal bite. This is so to the extent that it consolidates Community law. The emerging practice of the Court of First Instance and of Advocates General of the Court of referring to the Charter as legal authority must be understood in such a light. Moreover, this understanding of the Charter offers an adequate standpoint to consider its relationship with the European Convention of Human Rights. It also provides evidence of the role of the Charter as a signal of the constitutional preoccupation which is gathering pace in Europe.