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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Key points: Charter of Fundamental Rights
The charter upholds basic Western values such as the right to freedom of speech and thought, and equality before the law.

It also recognises the right to strike, subject to national law, and fair working conditions. It bans reproductive cloning.

The 2000 Nice summit did not make the charter legally binding by incorporating it in the Nice treaty, as there was too much opposition.

Instead the charter is a political declaration - but the question of its future role is still controversial.

In the UK, the opposition Conservative Party says that even as a non-binding text it will be taken into account by the courts, and therefore will not be a simple political declaration.

But some countries - such as Germany, France and the Netherlands - want to go further, and give the charter legal force.

In its foreword, the charter reads: "The Heads of State or Government of the European Union decided [...] that a 'European Charter of Fundamental Rights' should be drawn up, setting out all the civil, political, economic and social rights of EU citizens.

"The European Council also stated that the Charter might subsequently be incorporated into the Treaties so that it could become legally binding on the EU authorities and serve as a basis for court action by any citizen."

The rights are set out in 54 articles and six chapters, entitled dignity, freedoms, equality, solidarity, citizens' rights and justice.

Some key articles:

Article 2: Everyone has the right to life. No one shall be condemned to the death penalty or executed.

Article 14: Everyone has the right to education and to have access to vocational and continuing training.

Article 23: Equality between men and women must be ensured in all areas, including employment, work and pay.

Article 28: Workers and employers[...] have the right to negotiate and conclude collective agreements at the appropriate levels and, in cases of conflicts of interest, to take collective action to defend their interests, including strike action.

Article 32: The employment of children is prohibited.

Article 35: Everyone has the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment.

Article 37: A high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment must be integrated into the policies of the Union.







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