Research event

The soul of Europe in the balance? Subsidiarity and human rights in the EU and the ECHR

A research presentation by Andreas Føllesdal (University of Oslo), chaired by Joseph Finnerty (Hertie School). This event is hosted by the Centre for Fundamental Rights.

What is at stake if the EU accedes to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and becomes subject to its Court – as required by the Treaty on European Union Article 6?

We might expect no conflicts between the human rights protection by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU): The EU is committed to a Charter of Fundamental Rights which requires the CJEU to abide by ECHR standards and ECtHR jurisprudence (52.3). The ECtHR’s ‘Bosphorus Doctrine’ assumes that states comply with the ECHR when they implement EU legislation. And the term ‘subsidiarity’ appears in the treaties of both. Yet the CJEU objected to the draft accession treaty, and the ECtHR appears to foresee some such conflicts.

This presentation argues that appeals to subsidiarity will not alleviate the tensions because the two treaties, as interpreted by their courts, have different primary objectives. Arguments from subsidiarity do not indicate which of those objectives to privilege in order to harmonise the treaties, and important value laden choices concerning how to ‘balance’ and order the various valuable objectives remain. It seems ill advised to leave those choices to any one of the international courts.

This research event is hosted by the Centre for Fundamental Rights

Registered attendees will receive the paper on which the presentation is based via e-mail prior to the event. Please note that there are limited seats available.


  • Andreas Føllesdal is Professor of Political Philosophy at the Faculty of Law, University of Oslo, holding a Ph.D. in Philosophy, earned in 1991 from Harvard University. He publishes in the field of political philosophy, especially international political theory and international legal theory. His past projects include Co-Director at PluriCourts, a Centre of Excellence for the Study of the Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order. He was Principal Investigator for the European Research Council Advanced Grant MultiRights on the Legitimacy of Multi-Level Human rights Judiciary. He is currently a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.


  • Joseph Finnerty is a PhD researcher at the Hertie School’s Centre for Fundamental Rights. His doctoral research explores the recent development of Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights. He has taught at the European Humanities University (Vilnius) and Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. In addition to his doctoral research, he has particular research interests in the fields of access to justice and freedom of expression.