EU Human Rights Law and Policy

Course Description: 

The European Union’s action for the protection and promotion of human rights operates within a complex normative and institutional environment. Despite an original lack of competence in human rights, the European Union has nonetheless gradually developed mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights by the Union and its member states. Yet, the EU often faces sometimes strong criticism over its handling of human rights matters. This criticism results partially from shortcomings in the European Union’s human rights protection and promotion frameworks, but also from a misunderstanding of the EU’s role, competence and powers in relation to human rights protection in Europe and beyond. It is thus essential, for anyone interested in either EU law or policy-making, or in human rights’ protection and promotion, to have a clear understanding of the functioning of the EU human rights framework(s), and applicable standards. This course offers just this. After an introduction to the EU framework for the protection of fundamental rights in the EU, including substantive, institutional and procedural dimensions, the course will review and evaluate how the EU protects and promote human rights internally (with a particular focus on non-discrimination law and policy, and the protection of human rights in the field of freedom, security and justice), as well as externally, through the definition and implementation of the common foreign and security policy and development cooperation, and its participation in international human rights fora. Specific issues will be discussed depending on current developments and students’ interests.

Learning Outcomes: 

Content literacy

  • Knowledge of basic features of the legal framework for the protection of human rights in Europe,
  • and understanding of its interactions with other HR frameworks (i.e international, ECHR,
  • national constitutions);
  • Knowledge of the main institutional and civil society actors involved the field of the EU human
  • rights policy and ability to critically assess their roles and influence
  • Familiarity with specific procedural and substantive aspects of EU human rights law and policy.

Subject specific skills

  • Ability to identify, locate and assess legal and policy instruments available for the protection and
  • promotion of human rights by the EU in both internal and external matters.
  • Ability to understand, process and solve legal disputes involving human rights law in the EU
  • context;
  • Ability to identify and assess the human rights implications of policy actions, and advise
  • accordingly;
  • Familiarity with existing tools for human rights protection and promotion;
  • Ability to summarize and present relevant judicial decisions according to the case brief format;
  • Ability to reflect critically on a question which engages the legal and policy aspects of the
  • protection of human rights in the European Union.

Cognitive skills

  • Ability to identify, synthesize, analyze and evaluate primary and secondary sources, to reason
  • analytically and logically within the discipline.
  • Key academic transferable skills
  • Ablity to write in an analytical and critical way, to communicate effectively orally and to
  • communicate effectively in writing to both scientific and non-scientific audience.

Interdisciplinary skills

  • Ability to approach a question from a legal, as well as a policy, perspective, and understand the
  • similarities and differences between the two approaches;-
  • Familiarity with basic legal methodology, and policy instruments;
  • Understanding policy implications of legal institutions and the constraints imposed on policy
  • processes and outcomes by law.

The final grade is based on class participation (10%), roundtables oral and written contributions
(20%), case presentation and brief (20%) and a final seminar paper of 2500 word (50%).


Introduction to EU Consititutional Law