European Integration Through Fundamental Rights

The conception of fundamental rights as natural rights of human beings developed in European legal thinking mainly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and also Immanuel Kant should be mentioned. But it was in the new world that the principles of fundamental human rights were first put into practice. A little more than ten years after the first American declarations, the “Declaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen” was adopted in Paris; it remains part of French constitutional law today. But, unlike the development in the United States, the French guarantees could not be enforced by judges. The legislature was seen as the last arbiter of whether or not a specific regulation could be accepted as compatible with the bill of rights. As soon as the legislature had adopted a law, that law could not be challenged. In 1958 a very limited challenge became possible, through the Conseil Constitutionnel, but only before the formal promulgation of the law.