EU Commission spokesman denies that ECHR is essential to membership of the EU.

July 03, 2006

Asked by the BBC's Mark Mardell whether if a country left the ECHR it would have to leave the EU, Jose Manuel Barroso's spokesman replied at the midday press briefing ( on 26 June): "the European Convention on Human Rights is an instrument of the Council of Europe, and so strictly speaking, this is not part of the EU acquis. This being said, the European Convention on Human Rights, which by the way is older than the European Union, and is also subject of a very elaborate case law, is very largely identical to what is seen as the basic principles of fundamental rights applicable throughout the member states. It has been used by the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice as an important source for establishing what fundamental rights standards can be and should be and it is clearly an instrument which also has an impact that goes beyond the Council of Europe proper. But strictly speaking it is not at this stage an instrument of the European Union."

Comment: The EU requires as a condition of membership basic adherence to human rights, which has traditionally been taken as membership of the ECHR but this is not a legal condition of membership. Furthermore, the ECHR is not incorporated into EU law, so contravening it does not necessarily mean contravening EU rules.

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