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EU rights charter equal to constitution: Austrian court

04 May 2012, 12:32 CET
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(VIENNA) - Austrian legal decisions will be considered anti-constitutional from now on if they violate European fundamental rights and not just the country's basic law, the constitutional court ruled Friday.

"In cases where European Union law plays a role, the EU fundamental rights charter will carry the same weight as the constitution," the court said in a statement.

"If a decision by a government agency violates rights that are guaranteed by the EU fundamental rights charter, the constitutional court will annul it as anti-constitutional," without needing to consult the European Court of Justice first, it added.

The same will go for any piece of Austrian legislation that does not conform with the European charter, it said.

The move followed complaints against the decisions of an Austrian court granting asylum requests, the statement noted.

EU fundamental rights rules will now be taken into account in all cases where Brussels has strong and clear legislation, especially on key issues like immigration and asylum as well as competition regulation.

The charter may also be used in disputes between Austrian parties, and not just where foreign parties are involved.

However, it will not be used in issues where Brussels does not legislate, such as Austrian election law.

The fundamental rights charter, which entered into effect in 2009, guarantees the right in the European Union to freedom of expression, non-discrimination, and fair trial and working conditions, among other things.

Austria's constitutional court also verifies compliance with the European human rights convention, as well as with the country's constitution.

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