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The functions of the Charter and its social dimension
The Charter can have an important role in increasing legitimacy, autonomy, diversity, and solidarity. All of these aspects are crucial for EU consumer law, as underlined in the previous two chapters.
First, fundamental rights may strengthen legitimacy of the EU, by setting a catalogue of basic rights and objectives that link the Union with its citizens. This might create a stronger acceptance of the legal system if these rights can be made effective.
Secondly, fundamental rights protect individual freedoms. For instance, J.P. Muller describes the function of fundamental rights as a way of securing the integrity and freedom of individuals in society against the limitations of social power. I. Pernice goes further, maintaining that, in the present global and multilevel European system, fundamental rights have a broader role than protecting individuals against the public authority. A positive definition of freedom ensures that citizens have the possibility to actively participate in the political process to make claims against public institutions to develop policies that effectively realize fundamental rights.
Thirdly, the Charter includes a minimum set of values that are of central importance for both human dignity and individual identity in the pluralistic European society. This highlights the possibility of being culturally diverse, but being treated equally, thereby promoting diversity.
Finally, the Charter contains a ‘Solidarity’ chapter IV comprising fundamental social provisions aimed at securing the autonomy of individuals and their well-being. Consumer protection is included among them, suggesting that it will be pursued as an autonomous social objective of the EU. Fundamental social provisions aim at ensuring a specified standard of living to everyone without discrimination, and are increasingly considered a necessary condition to preserve autonomy in the market. For instance, R. Alexy considers fundamental social rights essential to ensure that the individual is able to act in an autonomous way. G. Frankenberg explains the quest for social safety as a need for decent living conditions and protection against the life risks in society. But, above all, he links it to the foundation of a political community that allows political participation, a condition for human self-realization in any society.
Besides having these functions the Charter may also have a powerful role in orienting the EU policy, in providing interpretative guidance of other provisions, and it might help to circumscribe the legal and political status of the citizen. In particular, for the consumer, fundamental provisions could lead to an improvement of ‘protection and enablement’, as well as granting greater voice to the consumer.
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