EC spox on Juncker letter: ‘Full compliance’ with EU Human Rights Charter is key

“Whatever the court has said and whatever the legal status of the Charter is, for the Commission it is always clear that when we implement a memorandum, full compliance with the treaties and with the spirit and the letter of the charter is key,” said deputy spokesman for the European Commission Alexander Winterstein on Friday.

The spokesman had been asked to clarify a claim made by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a letter to MEPs, in which he cited the European Court of Justice to say that national measures agreed under bailout programmes “fall outside the EU legal order” and do not have to comply with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Winterstein, while admitting that Juncker’s statements had not been misinterpreted and merely referred to EU case law, repeatedly stressed the European Commission President’s commitment to “ensuring that social considerations were seriously and explicitly taken into account” when negotiating the agreements in the memorandum of understanding for bailout programmes.

“That translates into everything he has done since the very beginning. There can be no doubt about the president’s commitment to this,” the spokesman said.

He also underlined that “there is not a single incidence where under EU law the charter would have been violated.”
“When we come to the EU Court of Justice, there is case law and case law says what it says. It is not for me to interpret the court and the president also did not interpret the court. Here the key point is that, first, the law and the charter have not been violated and second that we feel deeply committed and attached to both the spirit and the wording of the Charter and the treaties,” Winterstein noted.

Earlier, he had also stressed both Juncker’s and the European Commission’s support for collective bargaining and social dialogue, noting that the suggestion to have a broad consultation process involving a group of independent experts to capture the view of international organisations, including ILO, had originated from the Commission.

“This independent group has given a report in 2016 and this is currently being discussed,” he pointed out.
This very strong focus on social factors has now been translated into the policy choices made in the memorandum strengthening the social safety net, for a guaranteed minimum income scheme and others, Winterstein added.
The questions put to Winterstein concerned an except from Juncker’s letter to MEPs stating the following:

“The European Court of Justice has confirmed that the memorandums of understanding are acts of the ESM which falls outside the EU legal order. Therefore, when adopting national measures previously agreed in the memorandum of understanding, Greece is not implementing EU law and as a consequence, the charter of Fundamental Rights does not apply as such to the Greek measures.”