How robust is the EU’s framework for protecting human rights?

Mark Dawson’s new book on the challenges of institutional diversity in the EU human rights structure.

A new book by Hertie Professor Mark Dawson examines the EU’s governance framework for human rights. The monograph, The Governance of EU Fundamental Rights, was published by Cambridge University Press in February 2017. The book looks at the ambitious institutional structure the EU has developed to monitor fundamental rights violations in the last 20 years, focusing on how EU political institutions (i.e. the EU Parliament, Council and Commission) integrate human rights concerns in policy-making.

The diversity of the EU’s institutional structure creates challenges and opportunities for human rights advocates, Dawson argues in the book. “As human rights duties are shared between institutions, EU bodies can frequently pass off responsibilities to each other,” according to Dawson.  

The protection of social rights in the recent euro crisis may be one example – while the EU institutions delivering bail-out funding to southern EU states argued that social and health responsibilities rested with national governments, those governments responded that cuts in social programmes were demanded by EU-level creditors. The result was a severe gap in social rights provision for which decision-makers were rarely held accountable.

At the same time, the diversity of the EU’s institutional structure also means that human rights violations committed by particular institutions are often checked and rectified by others. Examining the EU’s legislative process, the book demonstrates that legislative interaction mostly leads to an increase in the overall level of human rights protection in EU laws.

It also examines the EU’s interaction with rule of law crises in its member states, pointing to ways in which governance approaches to public policy may improve the effectiveness of EU intervention. By providing an overview of the EU’s human rights architecture – and an in-depth look at fields such as social rights, data protection and rule of law enforcement – the book aims to provide a comprehensive overview of fundamental rights in the 21st Century EU.

Order the book here.

More about the author

  • Mark Dawson, Professor of European Law and Governance