LAWYERS4RIGHTS EUROPEAN CONFERENCE: A POSITIVE ENDING FOR OUR PROJECT

With the organisation of the final conference, the project Lawyers4Rights is about to come to an end. Over more than two years, the project carried out a research on the application of the Charter of fundamental rights at national level (in Bulgaria, Italy and Spain) and has organised a series of both transnational and national seminars. Now, it is time to review what we have achieved so far, as well as to take stock of what remains to be done.

Hundreds of lawyers from different countries have been involved in the different project activities, proving a satisfactory outcome in terms of raising awareness on the Charter and – particularly – on the key role lawyers play in its application.

The final conference, held on 24th June, should have been held in presence, in the city of Brussels, but due to the remaining uncertainties caused by the pandemic the project partners have opted for a remote event. It has presented the results of the project and the main findings concerning the awareness of lawyers and the application of the Charter, and especially the shortcomings and needs identified. Then, a special focus has been devoted to the next steps, considering the recent developments at EU level, such as the Strategy to strengthen the application of the Charter of fundamental rights in the EU, published by the European Commission.

Speakers from different fields joined the conference, presenting the perspectives of different stakeholders: lawyers, academia, judicial system, European institutions. At first, the executive director of the lead partner welcomed the participants and briefly presented what has been done so far. Then, it was the turn of European institutions. Mr. Postulski from the European Commission presented how the EC judicial training on European law can be used as a tool to enhance lawyers’ awareness on the Charter. He explained that a lot has been achieved over the past ten years, since the adoption of the first strategy on judicial training, but many challenges are still present and will be addressed through the second strategy published on 2nd December 2020. As for lawyers, the goal is to let 15% of them receive annual training on EU law. Training on the Charter remains a key priority and needs to focus in particular on its scope of application and on the interplay between the Charter and the European conventions. In order to improve the application of the Charter at national level, Mr. Moreno Diez from the EESC suggested to strengthen the overall capacity of the civil society, to make extensive use of the expertise of the Fundamental Rights Agency and to boost the dissemination effort.

Secondly, it is academics who took the floor. Prof. Salvatore discussed rules of procedure for preliminary rulings for the protection of fundamental rights. Prof. Buratti addressed the situation of training on fundamental rights in law schools, highlighting e.g. the lack of an adequate English competence, of adequate room devoted to international law and comparative law as well as to fundamental rights. Prof. Tiberi presented the approach of the Italian Constitutional Court to infringements of fundamental rights.

In the final session, judge Dechev explained the issue of the independence of seconded judges and Mr. Toggenbrug from the Fundamental Rights Agency focused on the future of the Charter and the way forward. Analysing the present situation, he stressed some weaknesses such as the fact that some provisions are little known (while others are prominent) and that the Charter is not used in more than half of all policy-making at EU level. At the same time, he considered there are also some positive notes such as the increased use of the Charter. He suggested the legal community to check the possible application of the Charter (art. 51) in their daily practice and to make use of available trainings and tools. On the side of Member States, a lot can be done to improve the implementation of the Charter, such as changing the rules on law-making. These suggestions would allow the Charter to have a bright future. As closure of the conference, participants in previous activities presented their perspective on what they learned and will take with them after having participated in the project.

In conclusion, the conference was an opportunity to show what was done during the implementation of the project and what was the impact of the training activities carried out. Even if more training is needed and the Charter is still underused, Lawyers4Rights represented a step forward towards improved knowledge of EU fundamental rights and increased awareness on the Charter among lawyers.