The European Convention for Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms – a Constitution for Europe?

Available in Russian

Author: Angelika Nussberger

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2019-2-3-19

Keywords: «living instrument»; constitutionalization of an international treaty; limits of judicial interpretation; political legitimization; value-based model of a society


In the retrospective it is surprising how skeptical the text of the European Convention of Human Rights was seen when it was adopted in 1950. Despite this somewhat difficult start it developed into a comprehensive human rights protection instrument applicable to 47 European States and thus exceeded all expectations. This was due to favorable historical conditions, especially after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s. The Court’s jurisprudence has shown revolutionary tendencies in developing the Convention as a “living instrument” and adapting it to changing conditions, but at the same time granting a varying margin of appreciation to the Member States in specific areas. In many respects the Convention resembles a Constitution. The interpretation of human rights has an impact on State organization, especially on principles such as rule of law, democracy, social State and federalism. Nevertheless, the Convention is clearly not a full-fledged Constitution as detailed regulations on State administration are missing. Furthermore, the conflict about the “last word” between the European Court of Human Rights and national Constitutional Courts has not been solved and cannot be solved as the hierarchy of norms is determined differently in constitutional law and international law. As a consequence, the European Court of Human Rights cannot be considered to be a constitutional court; it is rather a court promoting a model of a specific social contract. At present time, signs of crisis of this specific model cannot be overlooked; some political and legal problems that had been discussed when drafting the Convention seem to re-emerge. The need for a common value codex for Europe is, however, as great now as it was when the Convention mechanism was set up.

About the author: Angelika Nußberger – Vice-President, European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France; Professor, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.

Citation: Nußberger A. (2019) Evropeyskaya Konventsiya o zashchite prav cheloveka i osnovnykh svobod – Konstitutsiya dlya Evropy? [The European Convention for Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms – a Constitution for Europe?]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.9, no.2, pp.3–19. (In Russian).


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