News In Focus
From the Brussels office
O’Keeffe leaves as office head
June O’Keeffe left this month as the Head of the Law Societies’ Brussels Office, a post she occupied for more than seven years, in order to go and work in the EU institutions. Julia Bateman will be the acting head of office until a permanent appointment is made over the coming months.
Charter of Rights proclaimed
Following the approval of the Charter of Fundamental Rights by the European Parliament on 29 November 2007, the Charter was signed and solemnly proclaimed by the Presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament on 12 December, the day before the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon. The Charter sets out for the first time in one place the fundamental rights from which every EU citizen can benefit. It includes the “traditional” human rights set out within the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and also introduces new “modern” rights not in the ECHR such as the right of access to information and the protection of personal data. A Protocol on the application of the Charter clarifying the relationship between the Charter and UK law states: “The Charter does not extend the ability of the Court of Justice of the European Union, or any court or tribunal of Poland or of the United Kingdom, to find that the laws, regulations or administrative provisions, practices or action of Poland or of the United Kingdom are inconsistent with the fundamental rights, freedoms and principles that it reaffirms”.
The adoption of new rules on agency workers and on working time seems to be a timeless activity in itself. The two proposals failed to be adopted at a Council meeting of EU employment ministers on 5 and 6 December. Reports from the Council meeting suggest, however, that the UK’s opposition to the measures is becoming increasingly lonely. The two sticking points are: the opt-out from the working time rules; and the length of the period after which agency workers are to be entitled to receive equal treatment. Agreement on working time will, however, need to take place over the next few months. The Commission reiterated its threat to take infringement action against member states whose rules on on-call working time do not comply with the current directive. It also undertook to withdraw the proposal and reconsider the issue if agreement was not reached promptly.