The Union of Rights

The Union of Rights

60 years after the Treaties of Rome, a narration of Europe that looks beyond economic agreements and focuses on citizens

On March 25, 1957, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg signed the Treaty of Rome, creating the European Economic Community. A crucial step towards the Union. This anniversary is the occasion for taking stock of the state of health of Europe, looking beyond the economic sphere and focusing on rights, which should guide the entire European project. This work attempts to assess the current state of rights. Nine items were selected and then aggregated in four categories: LGBT: same-sex marriages and adoption, stepchild adoption; Bioethics: in vitro fertilisation, living wills and euthanasia; Law: average duration of trials, prison conditions and access to citizenship; Income: gender gap and basic income. There are four levels of assessment for each category, coupled with different shades of colour: guaranteed right, partial right, denied right and no information available. This overview gives us the picture of a divided Europe: divided by a shortage of law by different sensibilities, by cultural divide.

How does it works

The main graphic shows the overview of the votes in each country: every circle indicates a right while the segment stand for the country. By clicking on the squares you can read information on national laws.

60 YEARSOF RIGHTS1957-2017 LGBTBIOETHICSLEGALRIGHTSINCOME Austria Belgium Bulgaria Cyprus Croatia Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxemb. Malta Netherlands Poland Portugal United Kingdom Czech Rep. Romania Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Hungary GAY MARRIAGE GAY ADOPTION AND STEPCHILD ASSISTED PROCREATION END OF LIFE DURATION OF TRIALS PRISON OVERCROWDING ACQUISITION OF CITIZENSHIP MINIMUM INCOME GENDER PAY GAP 3 - Guaranteed Right2 - Partially guaranteed Right1 - Denied Right0 - No data available LEGENDA

Click on the squares to read information on national laws

No data
guaranteed Right

Obliged to civility

by Stefano Rodotà

“The Union (…) places the individual at the heart of its activities.” These simple words, part of the Preamble to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union approved in 2000, allowed continental institutions to equip themselves with intervention instruments for the protection of rights. The Charter was created for preventing the Union to be considered an entity solely founded on economic ties. Talking about the ‘individual’, and not about the ‘subject’, means referring directly to individuals in their concrete life, to their real condition and not to juridical abstractness. The chapters dedicated to dignity, freedoms, equality and solidarity allow countering those who built walls, establishing a limit in relation to other interests to be protected. When the Court of Justice of the European Union of Luxembourg had to deal with Google two years ago, it penalised for instance the principle that establishes that the protection of individual rights takes precedence over the pure protection of economic interests. The principles established by the Union enabled national legislations to overcome difficulties and resistances, and it was positive for Italy to be part of the Union.

The Union recognizes the right to self-determination of people

In 2015, the Court of Strasbourg ruled in favour of the appeal filed by Enrico Oliari, and sentenced Italy for the lack of a legislation concerning the recognition and protection of same-sex civil unions. With this regard, Article 9 of the Charter is highly innovative, given that it acknowledges the right to marry and the right to found a family: a distinction between the two rights is made and Member States are offered the possibility of legislate differently on the matter. Family does not equal marriage. In 2016, the Parliament has finally approved a law on civil unions, but it should be noted that, before any political leverage there was a sentence of the Union. In this case, the external constraint worked. The same applies to living wills.

The first same-sex civil union in Rome - Vincenzo Liveri - LaPresse

With regard to rights, the Union helps accelerating national laws which have been lagging behind for a long time. Such as the Italian one

The Union recognises the right of people to self-determination. Living wills are part of this possibility, as already recognised by judgement No. 438/2008 of the Constitutional Court concerning the right to health and the informed consent. “No one may be obliged to undergo any given health treatment except under the provisions of the law. The law cannot under any circumstances violate the limits imposed by the respect for the human person,” says Article 32 of our Constitution, and this is a very strong limit, our Habeas Corpus, its modern version. Significant progresses have been achieved in the Charter of the Union: the rights of the child and the elderly, the rights of persons with disability. A non-traditional word for national constitutions. Demonstrating, once more, that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union is based on the actual situations people live in. Contrarily what happens in the economic sphere, where the external constraint is considered as stringent and depressive for Member States, with regard to rights European institutions help accelerate the national legislations which have been lagging behind for a long time, such as the Italian one.

Italy lags behind in the Union of rights

Italy, locked in endless parliamentary debates and a lack of legislation filled too often by the goodwill of individual judges, is last in the ranking of the Europe of rights. The figure emerges from the sum of the votes allocated to each State in the different categories covered by our survey. Above us, all the other 27 members of the Union. Italy didn’t get any maximum score, obtaining the minimum in almost all subjects instead: from the scandalous duration of trials to the discussion on the end of life has been ongoing for over ten years now; from a female employment rate among the lowest in Europe to prison overcrowding, which has always been afflicting our prison system. The only two intermediate marks were given to assisted fertilisation, accessible solely for married or stable couples, and to civil unions, a law that was approved only in 2016 after a very long parliamentary battle.