Divisible, Contingent and Parochial? The instrumentality of EU fundamental rights

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


Human rights are meant to be universal, indivisible, and inalienable. They are legal norms that claim to reflect urgent moral concerns, and to protect human beings by mere virtue of their humanity. As such they are held to be universal, in that they apply to all human beings regardless of their background and nationality; they are inalienable, in that all human beings are born with them and they cannot be taken away from them; and they are indivisible, in that they cannot be considered in isolation, but must be understood to be the sum of entitlements which human beings require in order that their humanity be respected.
This chapter argues that EU fundamental rights meet none of these criteria. They are not universal, in that they may reserved only to certain classes of persons, they are not indivisible, in that particular individuals may be entitled to protection of some EU fundamental rights, but not others, and they are not inalienable, in that the extent of their protection may be contingent on whether such protection furthers the achievement of EU objectives. EU fundamental rights, it is argued in this chapter, are instrumental – they are means by which the unity, primacy and efficacy of EU law is secured.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law


  • EU law, Fundamental Rights, Legal Theory, Human Rights, Instrumentality
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOs Direitos Humanos por um fio?
Subtitle of host publicationPerspetivas transdisciplinares em torno dos direitos humanos em tempos difíceis
EditorsSilvério Rocha-Cunha, Marco Baptista Martins , Rafael Vasques
Place of PublicationVila Nova de Famalicão
PublisherEdições Humus
ISBN (Print)9789897554186
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov
Publication categoryResearch