Rotterdam professors present preliminary opinions on Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

Pieter Verrest en Kasper Jansen

The binding effect of The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union will mark its 15th anniversary in 2024. Yet the content and impact of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union remain unclear to many. Therefore, the Nederlandse Juristen Vereniging (NJV) organised an annual conference on 7 June 2024 with the theme: "Value, operation and potential of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in the Dutch legal order." Here, among others, two professors from Erasmus School of Law presented preliminary opinions on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in front of a full house at the Internationaal Theater Amsterdam: Pieter Verrest, Professor of Criminal Law, did so from the perspective of criminal law and Kasper Jansen, Professor of European Liability Law at Erasmus School of Law, from the perspective of private law.

The preadvices emphasised that knowledge of the Charter is essential for Dutch lawyers because of the influence of EU law on national legislation and jurisprudence. The preadvisers contributed on the influence and significance of the Charter in their fields and argued how legal practice and science should deal with fundamental EU rights.

Dealing with major developments in the judiciary

In his preliminary opinion The influence of the Charter on Dutch criminal law, Verrest describes how the Charter's influence on criminal law has been growing rapidly in recent years. "This is mainly due to a large number of rulings by the Court of Justice, which, when interpreting EU criminal law, often involves the Charter. This involves many different topics: think of the proportionality of punishments, the right to a fair trial, and the relationship between the right to data protection and effective investigative powers. Dutch legislators and criminal justice practice still have to get used to the Charter as a new source of law - alongside the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights ed.). They also find it difficult to deal with the case law of the ECJ, which is in full development, and sometimes seems to meander a bit", Verrest said. That is why the professor of criminal law makes a number of recommendations in his preliminary opinion, including for the Dutch government's action in the EU context, for the legislature and the judiciary.

Integration of fundamental rights into private law

In his preliminary opinion The Charter as an instrument of private law, Kasper Jansen discusses the significance of the Charter for general property law. At present, that significance still seems limited, but according to Jansen, the Charter has a lot of private law potential. Not only does the Charter contain several fundamental rights oriented towards property law (such as the right to freedom to conduct a business and the right to consumer protection), but the Court of Justice of the European Union has also assigned 'horizontal effect' to Charter rights. That is, the Charter is directly invocable in disputes between private parties. Against this background, Jansen argues that the Charter can help further integrate fundamental rights into private law and further refine rules of European private law.

Making the impact of the Charter tangible and palpable

Verrest and Jansen reflect on the NJV annual conference. Jansen: "I was honoured to defend my preadvice at the annual meeting of the Nederlandse Juristen Vereniging. To my delight, the majority of the meeting voted in favour of my theses. Those propositions came down to the fact that lawyers need to 'do more' with the Charter. I hope we will hear more of this in the coming years, because I really believe the Charter adds value to private law. What I liked to see was that during the annual meeting, ideas were exchanged between lawyers from all jurisdictions. On this topic, this is really important because the Charter has great significance for both public and private law. A icing on the cake for me personally was that I was appointed as an NJV board member during the meeting. This means that I get to join the other board members in thinking about a new theme for a NJV meeting in the future. A great challenge!"

Verrest adds: "The main objective of my preliminary opinion was to bridge the gap that exists between criminal law practice in the Netherlands and the Charter. I did so by explaining the operation of the Charter in criminal law in steps, and showing that the fundamental rights contained in the Charter apply across the board in substantive criminal law and criminal procedure. I hope the impact of the Charter has thus become tangible and palpable."

More information

You can read the full preliminary opinions here (only provided in Dutch).
Click here to read more information about the annual conference on the NJV website.

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