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Facts about the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

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(BRUSSELS) - Europe's Charter of Fundamental Rights, part of a new EU treaty which the eurosceptic Czech president wants to opt-out of, contains the rights available to all citizens and residents.

The 54-point document would apply to the EU's institutions and member nations only when they are implementing European laws and does not establish any powers that would allow Brussels to interfere with national legislation.

It divides the basic rights into six categories -- dignity, freedoms, equality, solidarity, citizens' rights and justice -- and contains many elements the member states have already signed up to in other agreements.

However the charter will only apply to 25 countries. Britain and Poland have decided to opt out amid concern that the European Court of Justice could use the document to impose certain rights in their countries.

Britain fears that the "right of collective bargaining and action" could enshrine the right of workers to strike.

Poland's previous conservative administration had argued that the charter's position on gay rights flew in the face of the values of a deeply Catholic society.

Deeply eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus called Friday for changes to the EU's new Lisbon Treaty to prevent ethnic Germans forced out of the country after World War II from claiming back their property.

He is the last European Union leader holding out on signing the treaty, which is designed to streamline decision-making in the expanded bloc and which must be ratified by all 27 members to take effect.

It is unclear whether his demand would require any renegotiation of the Lisbon Treaty, or even whether the Czech government and parliament -- which has already ratified the text -- would accept it.

Poland's Law and Justice party, which engaged in regular spats with neighbouring Germany during its two years in power, had also warned the charter contained provisions that could spur legal claims by Germans who lost property after the Polish-German border was redrawn following World War II.

Conservative President Lech Kaczynski, whose identical twin Jaroslaw Kaczynski was Law and Justice's prime minister, is due to sign the treaty on Saturday, leaving Klaus as the last major hurdle to its introduction.

The charter grew from a proposal by Germany, made in 1999 just after the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It was adopted at a summit in the French city of Nice -- the last time the EU's institutions were updated with a treaty -- but only as a political declaration and had no legal value.

"The Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 7 December 2000, as adopted in at Strasbourg on December 12, 2007, which shall have the same legal value as the treaties," the document reads.


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