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The Concept of Essence of Fundamental Rights in the EU Legal Order: Peeling the Onion to its Core

  • Maja Brkan
Abstract

Essence of fundamental rights – Article 52(1) of the Charter – Multi-level protection of fundamental rights in Europe – Sources of essence – European Court of Justice case law on ‘very substance’ of fundamental rights – Constitutional traditions common to the Member States – European Court of Human Rights – Court of Justice of the EU – Schrems – Principle of proportionality – Absolute theory – Relative theory – Classification of interferences with essence – Objective interference – Subjective interference – Absolute rights – EU methodology for determination of interference with essence

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Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Maastricht University. The author would like to thank Bartosz Marciniak, Giovanni Sartor, Marijn van der Sluis, Christoph Sobotta and Bruno de Witte for discussions and comments on an earlier draft of this paper; Mirjam Abner, Matej Accetto, Andrei Florea, Martin Husovec, Jan Komárek, Bartosz Marciniak and Alicja Sikora for helping the author with commentaries of national constitutional provisions; and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions for the improvement of this article during the review process. The usual disclaimer applies.

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1 See, for example, ECJ Case C-291/12, Schwarz, ECLI:EU:C:2013:670, paras 31-64; in para. 64 the ECJ concludes that interference with the fundamental rights to privacy and personal data arising from the requirement that a biometric passport contain the fingerprints of the passport holder, is justified by the ‘aim of protecting against the fraudulent use of passports’.

2 See, for example, ECJ Case C-92/09, Volker und Markus Schecke and Eifert, ECLI:EU:C:2010:662, paras 65-89.

3 For an example of an unjustified particularly serious interference with the fundamental right to privacy see ECJ Joined Cases C-293/12 and C-594/12, Digital Rights Ireland, ECLI:EU:C:2014:238, paras 37, 39.

4 See, for example, ECJ Case C-362/14, Schrems, ECLI:EU:C:2015:650, para. 94, 95.

5 Young, K.G., ‘The Minimum Core of Economic and Social Rights: A Concept in Search of Content’, 33 Yale Journal of International Law (2008) p. 113 ; Lehmann, K., ‘In Defense of the Constitutional Court: Litigating Socio-Economic Rights and the Myth of the Minimum Core’, 22 American University International Law Review (2006-2007) p. 163 ; Bilchitz, D., ‘Towards a Reasonable Approach to the Minimum Core: Laying the Foundations for Future Socioeconomic Rights Jurisprudence’, 19 South African Journal on Human Rights (2003) p. 1 .

6 Rivers, J., ‘Proportionality and Variable Intensity of Review’, 65(1) The Cambridge Law Journal (2006) p. 180 .

7 Rivers, supra n. 6, p. 184.

8 See the constitutions of Estonia (Art. 17(2)), Germany (Art. 19(2)), Hungary (Art. I(3)), Poland (Art. 31(3)), Portugal (Art. 18), Romania (Art. 53(2)), Slovakia (Art. 13(4)), Spain (Art. 53(1)).

9 For example, Turkey (Art. 13), Argentina (Art. 28), Namibia (Art. 22(a)), Switzerland (Art. 36). The South African Constitution contains a concept of ‘minimum core’; in theory see Lehmann, supra n. 5.

10 See ECJ Case 4/73, Nold, Kohlen- und Baustoffgroßhandlung v Commission ECLI:EU:C:1974:51, para. 14; ECJ Case C-44/79, Hauer v Land Rheinland-Pfalz, ECLI:EU:C:1979:290, paras 23, 30; ECJ Case 265/87, Schräder v Hauptzollamt Gronau, ECLI:EU:C:1989:303, para. 15.

11 ECtHR 28 May 1985, Case No. 8225/78, Ashingdane v United Kingdom, paras 57, 59; ECtHR 27 August 1991, Case Nos. 12750/87, 13780/88, 14003/88, Philis v Greece, paras 59, 65; ECtHR 23 June 2016, Case No. 20261/12, Baka v Hungary, para. 121; ECtHR 21 June 2016, Case No. 5809/08, Al-Dulimi and Montana Management Inc. v Switzerland, para. 151; ECtHR 21 December 2000, Case No. 34720/97, Heaney and McGuinness v Ireland, paras 55, 58; ECtHR 11 July 2002, Case No. 28957/95, Christine Goodwin v United Kingdom, paras 99-101.

12 The text of the Covenant does not specifically refer to the notion of ‘essence’, but this notion came into existence through the interpretation of Covenant’s Art. 5(1) prohibiting – similarly to the ECHR – destruction of rights and their limitation to a greater extent than provided by Covenant. See Von Bernstorff, J., ‘Kerngehaltsschutz durch den UN-Menschenrechtsausschuss und den EGMR: Vom Wert kategorialer Argumentationsformen’, 50 Der Staat (2011) p. 170 ; Nowak, M., U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: CCPR Commentary, 2nd edn. (Engel 2005) p. 115 .

13 H. Hofmann, ‘Art. 19’, in B. Schmidt-Bleibtreu and F. Klein, Kommentar zum Grundgesetz (Luchterhand 2004) p. 613.

14 Rivers, supra n. 6, p. 184.

15 M. Borowsky, ‘Artikel 52 Tragweite und Auslegung der Rechte und Grundsätze’, in Meyer (ed.), Charta der Grundrechte der Europäischen Union (Nomos 2011), p. 670; Grote, R. and Marauhn, T., EMRK/GG: Konkordanzkommentar zum europäischen und deutschen Grundrechtsschutz (Mohr Siebeck 2006) p. 370 .

16 Meyer, supra n. 15, p. 681.

17 Article Y (Limitations) of Draft Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, CHARTE 4123/1/00 REV 1, 15 February 2000. Emphasis added.

18 Art. 47 (Limitation of guaranteed rights) of Draft Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, CHARTE 4316/00, 16 May 2000. Emphasis added.

19 Art. 50 (Scope of guaranteed rights) of Draft Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, CHARTE 4422/00, 28 July 2000.

20 Emphasis added.

21 Differently from existing doctrine on the matter of ‘essence’, the present article analyses the notion of ‘essence’ from the perspective of Art. 52(1) of the Charter itself, its characteristics, constitutive traits and difficulties related to its conceptualisation. Cf A. Von Bogdandy et al., ‘Reverse Solange–Protecting the essence of fundamental rights against EU Member States’, 49 Common Market Law Review (2012) p. 489.

22 Alexy, R., A Theory of Constitutional Rights (Oxford 2004) p. 193 .

23 Alexy, supra n. 22, p. 196.

24 Rivers, supra n. 6, p. 187.

25 Barak, A., Proportionality: Constitutional Rights and their Limitations (Cambridge University Press 2016) p. 498 .

26 Van der Schyff, G., ‘Cutting to the Core of Conflicting Rights: The Question of Inalienable Cores in Comparative Perspective’, in E. Brems (ed.), Conflicts Between Fundamental Rights (Intersentia 2008) p. 135 .

27 Alexy, supra n. 22, p. 193, 195.

28 Jiménez Campo, J., Derechos fundamentales: conceptos y garantías (Trotta 1999) p. 22 .

29 Leisner, W., Grundrechte und Privatrecht (Beck 1960) p. 155 .

30 Papier also points out that the essence of the right to property encompasses the private use of property and the free disposal of property; see H.-J. Papier, ‘GG Art. 14’, in T. Maunz and G. Dürig, Grundgesetz-Kommentar, 75. EL September 2015, available through Beck Online, point 333.

31 Casas Baamonde, M.E. and Rodríguez-Piñero y Bravo-Ferrer, M., Comentarios a la Constitución Española (Kluwer 2008) p. 1168 ; Jiménez Campo, supra n. 28, p. 23-24; F.J. Bastida Freijedo et al., Teoría general de los derechos fundamentales en la Constitución Española de 1978 (Publicado en la editorial Tecnos Madrid 2004), available at <www.unioviedo.es/constitucional/miemb/pdf/librodf.PDF>, visited 24 March 2018, p. 122.

32 Kokott, J., ‘Grundrechtliche Schranken und Schrankenschranken’ in D. Merten and H.-J. Papier (eds.), Handbuch der Grundrechte in Deutschland und Europa (Müller 2004) p. 892 .

33 See ECJ Case 4/73, Nold, Kohlen- und Baustoffgroßhandlung v Commission ECLI:EU:C:1974:51, para. 14; ECJ Case C-44/79, Hauer v Land Rheinland-Pfalz, ECLI:EU:C:1979:290, para. 23, 30; ECJ Case 265/87, Schräder v Hauptzollamt Gronau, ECLI:EU:C:1989:303, para. 15.

34 For the three criteria created by the ECJ see Besselink, L., ‘Entrapped by the Maximum Standard: On Fundamental Rights, Pluralism and Subsidiarity in the European Union’, 35(3) Common Market Law Review (1998) p. 634 .

35 See Digital Rights Ireland, supra n. 3.

36 Schrems, supra n. 4.

37 ECJ Case C-426/11, Alemo-Herron and Others, ECLI:EU:C:2013:521.

38 ECJ Case C-203/15, Tele2 Sverige, ECLI:EU:C:2016:970, para. 101.

39 ECJ Case C-258/14, Florescu and Others, ECLI:EU:C:2017:448, para. 55.

40 ECJ Case C-190/16, Fries, ECLI:EU:C:2017:513, para. 38; ECJ Case C-18/16, K., ECLI:EU:C:2017:680, para. 35; ECJ Case C-601/15 PPU, J. N., ECLI:EU:C:2016:84, para. 52; ECJ Case C-201/15, Anonymi Geniki Etairia Tsimenton Iraklis (AGET Iraklis), ECLI:EU:C:2016:972, para. 84-88; ECJ Case C-547/14, Philip Morris Brands and Others, ECLI:EU:C:2016:325, para. 151; ECJ Case C-484/14, Mc Fadden, ECLI:EU:C:2016:689, paras 91, 92; ECJ Case C-477/14, Pillbox 38, ECLI:EU:C:2016:324, paras 161, 164; ECJ Case C-129/14 PPU, Spasic, ECLI:EU:C:2014:586, paras 58, 59; ECJ C-650/13, Delvigne, ECLI:EU:C:2015:648, para. 48; ECJ C-528/13, Léger ECLI:EU:C:2015:288, para. 54; ECJ C-291/12, Schwarz, ECLI:EU:C:2013:670, para. 39.

41 Fabbrini, F., Fundamental Rights in Europe: Challenges and Transformations in Comparative Perspective (Oxford University Press 2014) p. 20 .

42 See, for example, ECJ Case 327/82, Ekro EU:C:1984:11, para. 11; ECJ Case C-436/04, van Esbroeck, EU:C:2006:165, para. 35; ECJ Case C-261/09, Mantello, EU:C:2010:683, para. 38; ECJ Case C-60/12, Baláž, EU:C:2013:733, para. 26; Spasic, supra n. 40, para. 79; ECJ Case C-511/14, Pebros Servizi, EU:C:2016:448, para. 36; ECJ Case C-395/15, Daouidi, ECLI:EU:C:2016:917, para. 50.

43 Slaughter, A.M., A New World Order (Princeton 2004) p. 70 ; Slaughter, A.M., ‘Judicial Globalization’, 40 Virginia Journal of International Law (2000) p. 1104 ff .

44 For the English version of the German Constitution, see ‘Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany’, available at <www.bundesregierung.de/Content/EN/StatischeSeiten/breg/basic-law-content-list.html>, visited 20 April 2018.

45 B. Remmert, ‘GG Art. 19’, in T. Maunz and G. Dürig (eds.), Grundgesetz-Kommentar, 78. EL September 2016, available through Beck Online, points 4-5; C. Grabenwarter and T. Marauhn, ‘Grundrechtseingriff und –schranken’ in Grote and Marauhn, supra n. 15, p. 369.

46 Remmert, supra n. 45, point 1.

47 C. Enders, ‘GG Art. 19’, in V. Epping and C. Hillgruber (eds.), BeckOK Grundgesetz, 32. ed., available through Beck Online, point 24-25.

48 Grabenwarter and Marauhn, supra n. 45, p. 369.

49 Remmert, supra n. 45, points 1 and 10.

50 Grabenwarter and Marauhn, supra n. 45, p. 369.

51 Alexy, supra n. 22, p. 193-194.

52 BVerfG: Durchführung des Sozialstaatsprinzips in Verfahren des JWG und BSHG, Neue Juristische Wochenschrift 1967, p. 1795.

53 Ibid., p. 1800.

54 Von Bernstorff, supra n. 12, p. 171; Von Bogdandy et al., supra n. 21, p. 510.

55 For example, Turkey (Art. 13), Argentina (Art. 28), Namibia (Art. 22(a)), Switzerland (Art. 36).

56 On first codifications of fundamental rights in Europe see Fabbrini, supra n. 41, p. 7.

57 Hofmann, supra n. 13, p. 742.

58 P. Häberle, ‘Wechselwirkungen zwischen deutschen und ausländischen Verfassungen’, para. 41, as cited in Kokott, supra n. 32, p. 887.

59 See Art. 53(1) of the Spanish Constitution.

60 See Art. 18 of the Portuguese Constitution.

61 Gomes Canotilho, J.J. and Moreira, V., Constituição da República Portuguesa Anotada. Volume I, 4th edn (Coimbra Editora 2007) p. 395 .

62 Casas Baamonde and Rodríguez-Piñero y Bravo-Ferrer, supra n. 31, p. 1168; Jiménez Campo, supra n. 28, p. 23-24; Bastida et al., supra n. 31, p. 122. For a more sceptical position, compare Viera Álvarez, C., ‘El contenido esencial de los derechos fundamentales: La libre iniciativa económica en España y Chile’, 62 Revista de Ciencias Sociales (2013) p. 182 .

63 Judgment of the Spanish Constitutional Court No 236/2007, 7 November 2007. For a commentary see F. Balaguer Callejón, ‘El contenido esencial de los derechos constitucionales y el régimen jurídico de la inmigración. Un comentario a la STC 236/2007 de 7 de noviembre’, available at <www.ugr.es/~redce/REDCE10/articulos/15FranciscoBalaguerCallejon.htm>, visited 24 March 2018.

64 del Camino Vidal Fueyo, M., ‘La jurisprudencia del Tribunal Constitucional en materia de derechos fundamentales de los extranjeros a la lux de la STC 236/2007’, 85 Revista Española de Derecho Constitucional (2009) p. 369 .

65 Judgment of the Spanish Constitutional Court No. 11/1981, 8 April 1981. For a commentary see Parejo Alfonso, L., ‘El contenido esencial de los derechos fundamentales en la jurisprudencia constitucional: a propósito de la sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional de 8 de abril de 1981’, 3 Revista Española de Derecho Constitucional (1981) p. 169-190 .

66 The search was performed on the website of the Portuguese Constitutional Court (www.tribunalconstitucional.pt) with search terms ‘artigo 18.º, n.º 3’ as this is the provision of the Portuguese Constitution that contains the notion ‘conteúdo essencial’.

67 Judgment of the Portuguese Constitutional Court No. 604/2008, 10 December 2008.

68 Ibid., point 1.1.

69 Ibid., title III – Conclusions.

70 Judgment of the Portuguese Constitutional Court No. 460/2011, 11 October 2011, point 2.4.

71 Judgment of the Portuguese Constitutional Court No. 254/99, 4 May 1999, point 11.

72 Sachs, M., Grundgesetz: Kommentar (Beck 2009) p. 743 .

73 Kokott, supra n. 32, p. 891.

74 After the fall of the communist regime, Hungary adopted a new constitution only in 2011; for text see <www.kormany.hu/download/e/02/00000/The%20New%20Fundamental%20Law%20of%20Hungary.pdf>, visited 24 March 2018, which was amended with rather controversial amendments in 2013; for text see <www.mfa.gov.hu/NR/rdonlyres/8204FB28-BF22-481A-9426-D2761D10EC7C/0/FUNDAMENTALLAWOFHUNGARYmostrecentversion01102013.pdf>, visited 24 March 2018.

75 In the context of the interpretation of the concept of ‘essential content’, the Hungarian Constitutional Court, deciding on a case concerning the right to have one’s own name, even went as far as to define the entirety of the right as an essential content and thereby to declare this right absolute. See Decision 58/2001 (XII. 7.) AB, in Holló, A. and Erdei, A., Selected Decisions of the Constitutional Court of Hungary (1998-2001) (Akadémiai Kiadó 2005) p. 417-418 .

76 According to Art. I(3) of the Hungarian constitution, ‘[a] fundamental right may only be restricted to allow the effective use of another fundamental right or to protect a constitutional value, to the extent absolutely necessary, proportionate to the objective pursued and with full respect for the essential content of such fundamental right.’

77 Küpper, H., Die ungarische Verfassung nach zwei Jahrzehnten des Übergangs (Peter Lang 2007) p. 92 .

78 See, in media, for example BBC: ‘Q&A: Hungary’s controversial constitutional changes’ <www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21748878>, visited 24 March 2018.

79 ECJ Case C-286/12, Commission v Hungary, ECLI:EU:C:2012:687. For a commentary see Vincze, A., ‘The ECJ as the Guardian of the Hungarian Constitution: Case C-286/12 Commission v Hungary’, 19 European Public Law (2013) p. 489-500 .

80 Art. 31(3) of the Polish Constitution.

81 Judgment of Polish Constitutional Court of 12 January 2000, as cited in ECtHR 19 June 2006, Case No. 35014/97, Hutten-Czapska v Poland.

82 See Art. 13(4) of the Slovak Constitution. In theory see Drgonec, J., Ústava Slovenskej Republiky: Komentár, 3rd edn. (Heuréka 2012) p. 291 .

83 Art. 53(2) of the Romanian Constitution. The original Constitution of Romania of 1991 (Official Gazette of Romania, Part I, No. 233 of 21 November 1991) was revised in 2003 with the Law No. 429/2003 on the revision of the Constitution of Romania (Official Gazette of Romania, Part I, No. 758 of 29 October 2003. The initial article dealing with the existence of fundamental rights (Art. 49(2)) was renumbered, in the new version, into Art. 53(2). Available at <www.cdep.ro/pls/dic/site.page?id=371>, visited 24 March 2018.

84 Romanian constitutional doctrine points out that this provision needs to be read together with the provision prohibiting ‘suppression of the citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms’. See Zlatescu, I., Constitutional Law in Romania (Kluwer 2012) p. 116 and Art. 152(2) of the Romanian Constitution.

85 ECJ Case C-155/79, AM & S v Commission, ECLI:EU:C:1982:157, para. 19-20.

86 Opinion of AG Kokott in ECJ Case C-550/07 P, Akzo Nobel Chemicals and Akcros Chemicals v Commission, ECLI:EU:C:2010:229, para. 94. Emphasis in original. See commentary on Art. 52 by S. Peers and S. Prechal in S. Peers et al. (ed.), The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: A Commentary (Beck/Hart 2014) p. 1504.

87 ECJ Case C-144/04, Mangold, ECLI:EU:C:2005:709, para. 75.

88 ECJ Case C-555/07, Kücükdeveci, ECLI:EU:C:2010:21, para. 21.

89 In Mangold (para 74), the ECJ relied on ‘various international instruments and … the constitutional traditions common to the Member States’ (emphasis added), without explaining to what extent the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of age is truly common.

90 AG Kokott in Akzo Nobel, para. 97.

91 Since the analysis of the legal orders of the Member States is not exhaustive, it is not excluded that more Member States recognise this notion in their national legal orders.

92 Pointed out by Peers and Prechal, supra n. 86, p. 1504-1505, who rely on the Explanations to the Charter.

93 Ibid.

94 For the use of this notion in ECJ case law and its link to Art. 52(1) of the Charter, see Explanation on Article 52 – Scope and interpretation of rights and principles, OJ 2007, C 303/32.

95 In the seminal case, ECJ 4/73, Nold v Commission, ECLI:EU:C:1974:51, para. 14, the ECJ pointed out that restrictions of fundamental rights are legitimate if they are ‘justified by the overall objectives pursued by the Community, on condition that the substance of these rights’ is not affected. Emphasis added. In the following case law, this formulation slightly changed, requiring that the interference should not be disproportionate and should not impinge upon the ‘very substance’ of the rights guaranteed. Cf for example ECJ Case C-44/79, Hauer v Land Rheinland-Pfalz, ECLI:EU:C:1979:290, para. 23, 30; ECJ Case 265/87, Schräder v Hauptzollamt Gronau, ECLI:EU:C:1989:303, para. 15; ECJ Case C-274/99 P, Connolly v Commission, ECLI:EU:C:2001:127, para. 111.

96 ECJ Case 4/73, Nold v Commission, ECLI:EU:C:1974:51, para. 12.

97 Ibid., para. 14. Emphasis added.

98 ECJ C-44/79, Hauer v Land Rheinland-Pfalz, ECLI:EU:C:1979:290. For example, the German government specifically argued that the disputed German measure did ‘not adversely affect the ‘substance’ of the right to property’ (p. 3733) and the Council relied directly on the case law of the German Constitutional Court to argue the necessity of the protection of the substance of fundamental rights in the Community legal order and to conclude that the present case did not entail an interference with the substance of the right to property (p. 3736-3737).

99 Hauer, para. 23: ‘whether the restrictions introduced by the provisions in dispute in fact correspond to objectives of general interest pursued by the Community or whether, with regard to the aim pursued, they constitute a disproportionate and intolerable interference with the rights of the owner, impinging upon the very substance of the right to property’.

100 For convincing reasoning that ‘the EU legal order is de facto and de jure far less autonomous than the European Court of Justice pretends it to be’, see Reestman, J.H. and Besselink, L., ‘Sandwiched between Strasbourg and Karlsruhe: EU Fundamental Rights Protection’, 12(2) EuConst (2016) p. 213 .

101 It is interesting to observe that the ECJ, in that early period, developed the protection of very substance in German cases, either through preliminary references made by German courts or in cases where German applicants challenged the validity of Community measures.

102 In ECJ Case C-249/13, Boudjlida, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2431, para. 32, 33; and ECJ Case C-166/13, Mukarubega, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2336, para. 44, the Charter did not apply because it is not addressed to the Member States. Instead, the fundamental rights as general principles were applicable which leads to an interesting conclusion: general principles enjoy a broader scope of application than the Charter.

103 ECJ Case C-397/14, Polkomtel, ECLI:EU:C:2016:256, para. 60.

104 See Polkomtel, supra n. 103, para. 60; ECJ Case C-129/13, Kamino International Logistics, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2041, para. 29. See also ECJ Case C-539/10 P, Al-Aqsa v Council, ECLI:EU:C:2012:711, para. 121; ECJ Case C-548/09 P, Bank Melli Iran v Council, ECLI:EU:C:2011:735, para. 114, where the ECJ did not specifically raise the issue of non-applicability of the Charter, but this can be implicitly concluded from the occurrence of facts of the case.

105 Polkomtel, supra n. 103, para. 60.

106 ECJ Case C-383/13 PPU, G. and R., ECLI:EU:C:2013:533, para. 32-33.

107 ECJ Case C-418/11, Texdata Software, ECLI:EU:C:2013:588, para. 71-77 and 84.

108 ECJ Case C-416/10, Križan, ECLI:EU:C:2013:8, para. 111-116.

109 ECJ Case C-314/12, UPC Telekabel Wien, ECLI:EU:C:2014:192, para. 47, 51.

110 ECJ Case C-348/12 P, Council v Manufacturing Support & Procurement Kala Naft, ECLI:EU:C:2013:776, para. 122, 123.

111 Fabbrini, supra n. 41, p. 20-21.

112 Grote and Marauhn, supra n. 15, p. 369.

113 Von Bernstorff, supra n. 12, p. 170.

114 Emphasis added.

115 Philis v Greece, supra n. 11, paras 59, 65. Compare later cases ECtHR Baka v Hungary, supra n. 11, para. 121; Al-Dulimi and Montana Management Inc. v Switzerland, supra n. 11, para. 151.

116 Heaney and McGuinness v Ireland, supra n. 11, para. 55, 58.

117 Christine Goodwin v United Kingdom, supra n. 11, paras 99-101.

118 ECtHR, 18 February 1999, Case No. 24833/94, Matthews v United Kingdom, para. 65.

119 Raz, J., ‘Two Views of the Nature of the Theory of Law. A Partial Comparison’, in J.L. Coleman (ed.), Hart’s Postscript. Essays on the Postscript to The Concept of Law (Oxford University Press 2001) p. 8 .

120 Dawson points out that the ECJ’s case law does not clearly draw the boundaries between the ‘core’ and ‘periphery’ of fundamental rights; see Dawson, M., The Governance of EU Fundamental Rights (Cambridge University Press 2017) p. 64 .

121 We admit that this claim has not been empirically proven, but it is rather a result of argumentative logic.

122 Ojanen, Compare T., ‘Making the Essence of Fundamental Rights Real: The Court of Justice of the European Union Clarifies the Structure of Fundamental Rights under the Charter: ECJ 6 October 2015, Case C-362/14, Maximillian Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner’, 12(2) EuConst (2016) p. 326 .

123 Cf Barak, supra n. 25, p. 497.

124 Alexy, supra n. 22, p. 193.

125 Enders, supra n. 47, p. 733, 741-742.

126 Kokott, supra n. 32, p. 886.

127 Wildhaber, L., ‘Limitations on Human Rights in Times of Peace, War and Emergency: A Report on Swiss Law’, in A. de Mestral (ed.), The Limitation of Human Rights in Comparative Constitutional Law (Yvon Blais 1968) p. 55 , who gives as an example Nazi anti-Jewish legislation impairing the essence of personal liberty. Cf also Van der Schyff, supra n. 26, p. 132.

128 Kokott, supra n. 32, p. 889.

129 Casas Baamonde and Rodríguez-Piñero y Bravo-Ferrer, supra n. 31, p. 1168; Ferreres Comella, V., The Constitution of Spain: A Contextual Analysis (Hart 2013) p. 237 .

130 Ferreres Comella, supra n. 129, p. 248.

131 Cf Kokott, supra n. 32, p. 889.

132 ECJ Case C-617/10, Åklagaren v Åkerberg Fransson, ECLI:EU:C:2013:105, para. 21 where the ECJ points out that ‘the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter must ... be complied with where national legislation falls within the scope of European Union law’ and that the ‘applicability of European Union law entails applicability of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter’.

133 In Alemo-Herron and Others, supra n. 37, paras 35-36, the ECJ, in the context of an interpretation of a directive, pointed out that a national regime concerning collective bargaining ‘is liable to adversely affect the very essence of its freedom to conduct a business’ and that secondary legislation cannot be interpreted in a way so as to affect this essence.

134 Schrems, supra n. 4.

135 Commission Decision 2000/520/EC of 26 July 2000 pursuant to Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the adequacy of the protection provided by the safe harbour privacy principles and related frequently asked questions issued by the US Department of Commerce (notified under document number C(2000) 2441), [2000] OJ L 215/7.

136 Schrems, supra n. 4, para. 107.

137 It is interesting to note that AG Bot only found a breach of essence of the fundamental rights to privacy and data protection. See Opinion of AG Bot in Schrems, supra n. 4, para. 177.

138 Schrems, supra n. 4, para. 95.

139 Schrems, supra n. 4, para. 95.

140 Schrems, supra n. 4, para. 94.

141 Digital Rights Ireland, supra n. 3.

142 Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC, OJ 2006 L 105, p. 54.

143 Digital Rights Ireland, supra n. 3, para. 39.

144 See Tele2 Sverige, supra n. 38.

145 Opinion of AG Saugmandsgaard Øe in ECJ Case C-203/15, Tele2 Sverige, ECLI:EU:C:2016:572, para. 259.

146 See Tele2 Sverige, supra n. 38, para. 99.

147 See also L. Azoulai and M. van der Sluis, ‘Institutionalizing personal data protection in times of global institutional distrust: Schrems Case C-362/14, Maximillian Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner, joined by Digital Rights Ireland, judgment of the Court of Justice (Grand Chamber) of 6 October 2015, EU:C:2015:650’, 53 Common Market Law Review (2016) p. 1365-1366.

148 The use of the term ‘national security’ rather than ‘public security’ follows the Schrems judgment and does not refer to ‘national security’ as understood in Art. 4(2) TEU, according to which national security ‘remains the sole responsibility of each Member State’. The use of this term shows all the more that the ‘security’ in question in this case is US national security. For a discussion on this issue, see Dimitrova, A. and Brkan, M., ‘Balancing National Security and Data Protection: The Role of EU and US Policy-Makers and Courts before and after the NSA Affair’, Journal of Common Market Studies (2017) p. 10 .

149 Commission Decision 2000/520/EC of 26 July 2000 pursuant to Directive 95/46 on the adequacy of the protection provided by the safe harbour privacy principles and related frequently asked questions issued by the US Department of Commerce, OJ 2000 L 215, p. 7.

150 Schrems, supra n. 4, para. 98.

151 Schrems, supra n. 4, para. 86.

152 As argued above, for an abstract (and narrower conception of) interference with the essence of ECHR fundamental rights, see Art. 17 ECHR.

153 Baka v Hungary, supra n. 11, paras 120-122.

154 Matthews v United Kingdom, supra n. 118, para. 65.

155 Art. 3 of Protocol No. 1 to ECHR. See Matthews v United Kingdom, supra n. 118, paras 63-65.

156 Christine Goodwin v United Kingdom, supra n. 11.

157 Art. 12 ECHR.

158 Christine Goodwin v United Kingdom, supra n. 11, paras 99-101.

159 In Christine Goodwin v United Kingdom, supra n. 11, the ECtHR overturned its previous jurisprudence on the right to marry for transsexuals: ECtHR 17 October 1986, Case No. 9532/81, Rees v United Kingdom; ECtHR 27 September 1990, Case No. 10843/84, Cossey v United Kingdom; ECtHR 30 July 1998, Case Nos. 31-32/1997/815-816/1018-1019, Sheffield and Horsham v United Kingdom.

160 Cf Alexy, supra n. 22, p. 192-193.

161 Cf Barak, supra n. 25, p. 497. That person is also deprived of (the essence of) all other fundamental rights since without life, no other fundamental right has a meaning; see J. Schwarze (ed.), EU Kommentar, 3rd edn. (Nomos 2012) p. 2618.

162 Part of the German doctrine argues that the notion of Wesensgehalt – just as the notion depicting ‘essence’ in the German Constitution – should be used instead of the term Kerngehalt. See A. Wallrabenstein, ‘21, 18, Zambrano – Zum Wesensgehalt der Unionsbürgerreche’, in C. Franzius et al., Grenzen der europäischen Integration (Nomos 2014) p. 320.

163 ECJ Case C-34/09, Ruiz Zambrano, ECLI:EU:C:2011:124, para. 42; ECJ Case C-202/13, McCarthy and Others, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2450, para. 57; ECJ Case C-256/11, Dereci and Others, EU:C:2011:734, paras 66 and 67; ECJ Case C-40/11, Iida, EU:C:2012:691, para. 71; ECJ Case C-87/12, Ymeraga and Others, EU:C:2013:291, para. 36; ECJ Case C-86/12, Alokpa and Moudoulou, EU:C:2013:645, para. 32; ECJ Case C-115/15, NA, ECLI:EU:C:2016:487, para. 72. Compare also the analysis of case law in the Opinion of AG Szpunar in ECJ Cases C-165/14 and C-304/14, Rendón Marín and CS, EU:C:2016:75.

164 Von Bogdandy et al., supra n. 21, p. 506.

165 ECJ Case C-184/99, Grzelczyk, EU:C:2001:458, para. 31; Ruiz Zambrano, supra n. 163, para. 41; ECJ Case C-115/15, NA, ECLI:EU:C:2016:487, para. 70.

166 Ruiz Zambrano, supra n. 163, para. 42.

167 ECJ Case C-115/15, NA, ECLI:EU:C:2016:487, para. 72.

168 ECJ Case C-408/03, Commission v Belgium, ECLI:EU:C:2006:192, para. 68.

169 Art. 4 of the Charter.

170 Art. 5 of the Charter.

171 A discussion on the exceptions to this right, such as for war crimes committed during the Second World War, goes beyond the scope of this article.

172 See in more detail Greer, S., The Margin of Appreciation: Interpretation and Discretion under the European Convention on Human Rights (Council of Europe Publishing 2000) p. 27 .

173 For a detailed analysis see Arai, Y., ‘Grading Scale of Degradation: Identifying the Threshold of Degrading Treatment or Punishment under Article 3’, 21(3) Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights (2004) p. 385-421 .

174 ECJ Joined Cases C-404/15 and C-659/15 PPU, Aranyosi and Căldăraru, ECLI:EU:C:2016:198.

175 Aranyosi and Căldăraru, supra n. 174, para. 85.

176 Terminologically and content-wise, it is important to distinguish between the core (essence) of a human right and core human rights. The latter are rights that are necessary for a dignified human existence and partially overlap with absolute rights: Victor Condé, H., A Handbook of International Human Rights Terminology (University of Nebraska Press 2004) p. 50 .

177 See for example ECJ Case C-528/15, Al Chodor and Others, ECLI:EU:C:2017:213, para. 40; ECJ Case C-201/15, AGET Iraklis, ECLI:EU:C:2016:972, para. 99; Order in ECJ Case C-698/15, Watson and Others, ECLI:EU:C:2016:70, para. 10-11; Opinion of AG Saugmandsgaard Øe in ECJ Joined Cases C-203/15 and C-698/15, Tele2 Sverige and Watson, ECLI:EU:C:2016:572, paras 128, 129, 171, 231, 254.

178 See for example Digital Rights Ireland, supra n. 3, paras 37, 39; ECJ Joined Cases C-203/15 and C-698/15, Tele2 Sverige and Watson, ECLI:EU:C:2016:970, para. 100; Opinion of AG Bot in ECJ Case C-362/14 Schrems, ECLI:EU:C:2015:627, para. 171, 214.

179 Rivers, supra n. 6, p. 184.

180 Schrems, supra n. 4, paras 94-95.

181 Al-Dulimi and Montana Management Inc. v Switzerland, supra n. 11, para. 37.

182 Baka v Hungary, supra n. 11, para. 122; ECtHR 22 June 2004, Case No. 31443/96, Broniowski v Poland, para. 185; Matthews v United Kingdom, supra n. 118, para. 65.

183 Al-Dulimi, para. 2 juncto 37.

184 Baka v Hungary, supra n. 11, para. 121.

185 Matthews v United Kingdom, supra n. 118, para. 7.

186 ECtHR 18 February 1999, Case No 26083/94, Waite and Kennedy v Germany, para. 59; ECtHR 21 November 2001, Case No. 35763/97, Al-Adsani v United Kingdom, para. 53; ECtHR 21 November 2001, Case No. 31253/96, McElhinney v Ireland, para. 34; ECtHR 23 March 2010, Case No. 15869/02, Cudak v Lithuania, para. 55; Ashingdane v United Kingdom, supra n. 11, para. 57.

187 ECtHR 3 December 2009, Case No. 8917/05, Kart v Turkey, paras 93-111.

188 Art. 6(1) ECHR. Cudak v Lithuania, supra n. 186, paras 60-74.

189 Dissenting opinion of Judge Pinto de Albuquerque in ECtHR 13 July 2012, Case No. 16354/06, Mouvement raëlien suisse v Switzerland, footnote 32.

190 ECtHR 10 November 2005, Case No. 44774/98, Leyla Şahin v Turkey, para. 154.

191 Emphases added. Al-Dulimi and Montana Management Inc. v Switzerland, supra n. 11, para. 35.

192 ECtHR 25 February 1993, Case No. 10828/84, Funke v France.

193 ECtHR 8 February 1996, Case No. 18731/91, John Murray v United Kingdom, para. 49. Emphasis added.

194 Heaney and McGuinness v Ireland, supra n. 11, paras 55, 58.

195 Spasic, supra n. 40.

196 Ibid., para. 58.

197 Florescu and Others, supra n. 39, para. 55.

198 Alemo-Herron and Others, supra n. 37.

199 Ibid., paras 34-35.

200 Case C-201/15, Anonymi Geniki Etairia Tsimenton Iraklis (AGET Iraklis), ECLI:EU:C:2016:972, paras 84-88.

201 It is expected that such examples will be rare in practice as the parties usually bring forward justificatory reasons for interferences with fundamental rights.

202 Alexy, supra n. 22, p. 195.

203 See Schrems, supra n. 4, para. 95.

204 For the link between the essence and Art. 2 TEU, see further Von Bogdandy et al., supra n. 21, p. 489 ff.

205 These values are also expressly recognised in the Preamble to the Charter: ‘the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law’.

206 McCrudden points out that every human possesses intrinsic worth merely by being a human and this intrinsic worth should be respected by others: McCrudden, C., ‘Human Dignity and Judicial Interpretation of Human Rights’, 19(4) European Journal of International Law (2008) p. 679 .

207 Kumm, M. and Walen, A.D., ‘Human Dignity and Proportionality: Deontic Pluralism in Balancing’, in G. Huscroft, B.W. Miller, G. Webber (eds.), Proportionality and the Rule of Law. Rights, Justification, Reasoning (Cambridge University Press 2014) p. 68 .

208 For a more philosophical account of dignity, see Rosen, M., Dignity: Its History and Meaning (Harvard University Press 2012) and for a commentary Waldron, J., ‘The Paradoxes of Dignity. About Michael Rosen, Dignity: its History and Meaning (Harvard University Press 2012)’, 54(3) European Journal of Sociology (2013) p. 554-561 .

209 Explanations to the Charter’s Art. 1. Emphasis added.

210 From this perspective, the Charter seems to closely follow the German theory which links essence (Wesensgehalt) very closely to human dignity; see Kokott, supra n. 32, p. 890, 892 who points out that, according to German doctrine, the essence protects the absolute core, which cannot be subjected to any restriction of a human dignity in a fundamental right. It therefore seems that we are facing an example of vertical cross-fertilisation which is all the more interesting because there seems to be no reception of this German reasoning in other countries; see Von Bernstorff, supra n. 12, p. 171-172.

211 Barak, A., Human Dignity. The Constitutional Value and the Constitutional Right (Cambridge University Press 2015).

212 Ibid., Parts II and III.

213 In Case C-36/02, Omega, ECLI:EU:C:2004:614, para. 34, the ECJ pointed out that ‘the Community legal order undeniably strives to ensure respect for human dignity as a general principle of law’.

214 It does, however, also not exclude the interference with dignity as a constitutional right.

215 Case C-13/94, P v S and Cornwall County Council, ECLI:EU:C:1996:170, para. 22.

216 This is obviously a non-exhaustive list. Jones points out three distinct areas where the value of human dignity is relevant, namely asylum, victims of crime and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation; see Jones, J., ‘Human Dignity in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and its Interpretation Before the European Court of Justice’, 33 Liverpool Law Review (2012) p. 294 .

217 Schrems, supra n. 4, para. 95.

218 Kart v Turkey, supra n. 187.

219 Cudak v Lithuania, supra n. 186.

220 Leyla Şahin v Turkey, supra n. 190.

* Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Maastricht University. The author would like to thank Bartosz Marciniak, Giovanni Sartor, Marijn van der Sluis, Christoph Sobotta and Bruno de Witte for discussions and comments on an earlier draft of this paper; Mirjam Abner, Matej Accetto, Andrei Florea, Martin Husovec, Jan Komárek, Bartosz Marciniak and Alicja Sikora for helping the author with commentaries of national constitutional provisions; and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions for the improvement of this article during the review process. The usual disclaimer applies.

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European Constitutional Law Review
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