The relative autonomy of the European Union's fundamental rights regime

Bruno de Witte*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The concept of the autonomy of European Union law plays an important role in the fundamental rights domain. Autonomy has been expressly invoked by the Court of Justice of the European Union (cjeu) when reviewing international legal norms on human rights grounds, and when denying the possibility for the eu to accede to the European Court of Human Rights (echr). The article also describes other constellations in which the cjeu has sought to preserve the distinctiveness of the eu’s approach to the protection of rights but without resorting to the use of autonomy language. The article concludes by advocating a positive rather than merely defensive use of autonomy, namely to describe the distinctive role that eu human rights policies can play in ensuring the effective enjoyment of human rights in the world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-85
JournalNordic Journal of International Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • autonomy
  • fundamental rights
  • Charter of Rights
  • European Union accession of the to the echr
  • self-executing treaties
  • external human rights policy

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