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Religion and Society

When Europe Wants to Make Justice be Done


Author: Marta Cartabia (Ed.)



Title: I diritti in azione. Universalità e pluralismo dei diritti fondamentali nelle Corti europee



Publisher: Il Mulino, Bologna, 2007, pp. 552




The European Union, which for years has been experiencing a broadening of its responsibilities and boundaries, and the European Convention on Human Rights, which groups together a larger number of States around an important catalogue of fundamental rights, over recent decades have become important poles around which has been played out the relationship between the universality of rights and the singularity of cultures.



At different levels and in different ways, the EU and the institutions of the Convention have shown themselves to be an indispensable complement to the constitutional law of each European State and have acquired increasing visibility with public opinion. No institution, juridical worker or simple private citizen can by now ignore the system of the EU and of the Convention itself in the norms of juridical relations.



This volume edited by Marta Cartabia stands out amongst doctrinal productions both because of its approach and because of its contents. A group of scholars with a new outlook here address, in fact, a plurality of subjects of the very greatest importance ranging from more specialist subjects, such as the role of the EU and Convention systems in national law, to aspects that command general attention such as family law, health and fertilisation, privacy, the treatment of minorities, sexual discrimination, pluralism in information and the Islamic presence. The volume is ended with an essay on the meaning of the category of ‘fundamental rights’ and a philosophical essay which introduces order into the apparent contradiction between the universality of rights and the never-to- be-repeated uniqueness of each man.



The overall picture demonstrates an increasing activism of the Court of Justice of the European Communities and the European court of Human Rights. On the one hand, this assures a unitary standard of protection of fundamental rights, thanks to the circulation of models, sensitivities and techniques between the Convention Court and the Court of the Communities as well. On the other hand, the penetrating and incisive control exercised by both at times tends to produce a kind of ‘judicial colonialism’, by which European judges end up by imposing an excessive juridical homogeneousness, given the differences between the various national contexts.



This is a perverse effect with homogenising consequences which almost no nation appreciates – above all when it has to apply a law that it feels is profoundly extraneous to its own traditions – and which at times ends up by rebounding against the initial objectives of the various peoples of Europe: not a political union but an integration of identities that maintain significant margins of difference.



The picture that this volume offers overall, lends itself to at least two observations. First of all, undoubted satisfaction at the boldness and the solidity of the projects for European integration born at the end of the Second World War and by which the European States were able to close in a definitive way the chapter of war conflicts which had been keep open for at least a hundred and fifty years. The readiness of the Frenchman Schuman and the German Adenauer to sit at the same table, sharing central resources such as atomic energy, coal and steel, or the capacity of the Convention to gain the support of the United Kingdom and Turkey to a list of human rights, cannot be underestimated.


Secondly, the tendency that has at times been manifested by some of the European institutions to go against the Christian cultural identity, and the pluralism of traditions from which modern Europe derives, is not a good harbinger for the future developments of European integration. This work edited by Cartabia, in addition to being a portrait, also offers a caveat that is made available not only to jurists but to all those who deal with sectors where the EU and the Convention play an important role.