Personal dignity and fundamental rights

Categories: Consumer Law
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Preliminary observations

Italian jurists are familiar with the word “dignity”: it appears at the beginning of Italy’s Constitution (article 3, para.1)  in the meaning of “social dignity” – which, together with the principle of equality before law is ensured to all citizens. It can be also found in the provisions devoted to economic relations with reference to remuneration, which must ensure a free and dignified existance to workers and their families (article 36), as well as in the framework of the exercise of economic activities, where it is laid down that the economic initiative cannot damage security, safety, freedom and human dignity(art.41 para.2). “Dignity” is not a mere word, but also a value, a principle, a general clause; a factor which characterizes a legal system; a limit and many other things, as happens to all the words burdened with years,  to the signifiers having multiple meanings and the words open to different interpretations. For Italian jurists, this word is obviously linked to freedom, equality – hence to people’s inviolable rights – which are protected by the Italian Constitution in the provisions enshrined in article 2.

 The systematic use of this word and the adjectives connected with it must not deceive us.  Even though the word “dignity” is explicitly mentioned in article 3 and the other provisions to which it refers, its inclusion in the Constitution has not hidden the conception universally recognized by Italian jurists - coming from different backgrounds and cultivating different sectors of the legal system, ranging from civil law, to labour, constitutional and procedural law, etc. – whereby people’s dignity is considered the basis for inviolable rights – hence the basis for the whole legal system. It is worth recalling that since 1956 the Constitutional Court referred to it at least in 100 judgements and that it can be found in at least 1,000 judgments of the Corte di Cassazione (the Italian Supreme Court) – in the framework of labour law, personality rights, family relations, as well as environmental law, right to health, and in the framework of criminal procedure and control over the compliance with the code of ethics of intellectual professions[1]. Indeed, in this connection, I think it is worth underlining that, well before dignity took up the status of founding principle of the whole legal system, the rules regarding the legal profession - introduced by the royal decree-law no. 1578 of November 27, 1933 -  clarified that the lawyers stricken off from the rolls could retain their title unless the striking off had taken place for “indignity” reasons (article 1, paragraph 2).

The conceptual boundaries of this word in its legal and judicial uses were the subject of a study I had carried out many years before, and which should be updated[2]. Nevertheless what emerged from that study is still significant.

This is exactly the reason why I have said that the word  “dignity” is part and parcel of Italian jurists’ lexicon, cultural background and trial kit.

Nevertheless, this aspect which appears to be a typical feature of our legal system and experience, does not emerge so strongly outside Italy’s borders. The European Union website outlines the text of the 2000 Charter of Fundamental Rights, which opens with  the solemn proclamation <Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected>.  The sequence of formulas adopted in the written constitutions of many E.U. Member States can be noted in that solemn proclamation. No mention is made, however, of the period in which those formulas penetrated into Constitutions – and this is certainly negative, because for example Italy’s Constitution, which entered into force on January 1, 1948, precedes the one adopted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948, and I believe it is the oldest of the post-war period – nor reference is made to the way in which these formulas are interpreted while, only by reading the provisions mentioned, we can understand – on the one hand – that in some Constitutions the formula is employed in limited contexts and, on the other side, that the texts mentioned are incomplete. After all, the best-known formula is the one enshrined in the 1949 Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, which comes after Italy’s and is somehow similar to it, even though it has a wider scope.

International Charters

While continuing our analysis, we can find many international charters which refer to human dignity: for example, the civil and political Pacts and the economic, social and cultural Pacts enclosed to the U.N. Universal Declaration of December 16, 1966; the Convention on the Rights of the Child of November 20, 1989 (art. 37), or the 1955 Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Various international, official or non-governmental institutions adopted fundamental texts which  enshrine the values from which inspiration must be drawn, such as the Council of Europe, which adopted recommendations on IT crimes, people in severe need, people with mental disorders, child exploitation, and so on.  E.U. resolutions and communications have tackled the issue of dignity in the fields of telecommunications and fight against web pornography, as well as control over the legal use of technologies. The Agency for the protection of fundamental rights was set up and every year a report is published on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union.

The role played by Courts

There exists huge literature on fundamental rights; the conceptual differences between fundamental, inviolable and human rights[3], as well as their significance, the ideologies which support them and the role played by Courts – defined in a recent valuable essay as “Babel tribunals”[4]. A successful attempt has been made to take stock of the human rights situation today and we could realize to what extent their enforcement is fragile and how – especially in times of crisis such as the current ones – they are at risk, thus jeopardizing the very essence of democracy.

Written texts are important but the decisions taken by the judges, who operate in different jurisdictions and with different competences, are even more significant. This is due to the fact that where there do not exist  written texts, in modern Western democracies the protection of fundamental rights takes place on the basis of common principles and shared values. Even though the so-called  bill of rights are not enshrined in a written constitution, stem from a constitutional custom or makes reference to a law, which ( according to the system of sources built by Hans Kelsen ) we would define as ordinary, such as the English  Human Rights Act, the judges have the task of providing real content to the written or oral rules which regulate our societies. In this sensitive work they are assisted and supported by lawyers, who fight for protecting human rights; promote their enforcement before courts; argument in defence briefs to persuade judges and challenge the decisions which, in their opinion, do not respect human rights. Furthermore, even where written texts exist, now the protection of fundamental rights has been entrusted to judges. Indeed, in a workshop held at the Sorbonne in May 2008, reference was made to the dignity “saisie” (seized) by judges, namely the dignity of which judges in Europe have taken possession[5]. The workshop followed another one organized in Limoges in November 2004[6], in which dignity had been examined in the framework of justice and ethics – hence of people’s fundamental aspects, as enriched (albeit also exposed to the dangers posed) by biological and information technologies.

Dignity is not a concept or a value enshrined in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights; nevertheless many judgments refer to it and have somehow set precedents. Likewise, many rulings were issued by the E.U. Court of Justice, even before the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was adopted and even before its legally binding value was recognized.

Briefly, the destiny of this word – which as I said before  is a value, a principle, a general clause, a limit – is closely interwoven with theories, legislative formulas and judiciary practices. And it is  than also a symbol, as words with a legal meaning include in themselves,as freedom, equality, solidarity , justice, and so on.

Nevertheless, the complexity of sources, the systematic intervention of Courts,  parliamentary and government political guidelines and the huge literature existing on this subject should make us aware that the  protection of human dignity – seen as the foundation of all people’s rights, as the expression of freedom and equality or as the summing up of inviolable rights – is an issue which cannot be solved in a summary and hasty way. The many workshops and opportunities for debate, which have been organized recently, demonstrate that this issue is fascinating, magmatic and burning. It also shows that, due to its multiple uses and multi-faceted contexts, this issue is bound to be interpreted in different and even diverging ways.

In the medley of issues tackled by jurists it is hard to find a clue, the thread with which to tie – in a simple and descriptive way – the history, evolution and reality of fundamental rights seen through the lens of “dignity”. Due to time and space constraints, I think it is useful to focus attention on three of them which have a common feature, namely novelty: dignity and fundamental rights in the light of the Lisbon Treaty, the principle of effectiveness and case law creativity.

A further aspect – which is extremely relevant in the private law perspective – should be tackled, namely remedies against the violation of people’s dignity. The remedies envisaged by E.U. law and the Draft Common Frame of Rules focus on compensation. Due to time and space constraints, I am bound to make a more in-depth analysis of this matter on another occasion.

The Lisbon Treaty

The Lisbon Treaty, which changes the E.U. Treaty and the Treaty establishing the European Community, was signed on December 13, 2007 and entered into force on December 1, 2009.  Three aspects are particularly significant with reference to the issue under discussion: the preamble, article 2 and article 6, to which we should add – while retracing the regulatory framework - the provisions of the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights related to freedom, equality, solidarity, citizenship and justice. Much has been written about the Charter and its  adventurous pathways[7], whereas little has been written by private law experts and academics, in spite of its huge political and legal relevance. Only constitutional and E.U. law studies are an exception to this rule.

In our perspective, the Treaty preamble is already evocative because it refers – by way of “inspiration” and hence as a guide to interpret the text – to <the cultural, religious and humanistic heritage which underlies the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, equality and the rule of law>. It is easy to see in these words the updated, polished and refined response to the crucial issue raised by the committee that had to draft the text of the E.U. Charter, with specific reference to Europe’s  Christian, Jewish-Christian, Enlightenment  or secular roots.

The issue has given rise to a fascinating debate. We cannot confuse, however, the values underlying the Greek-Roman culture and natural rights, as considered in Plato’s and Aristotle’s philosophy, with the values of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. A still unsurpassed analysis of the former was made by Leo Strauss, in a work repeatedly reprinted also in Italy[8], where a distinction is made between the ancient conception of natural law and the modern conception of natural rights. With reference to human rights in the Middle Ages legal civilization, suffice to recall the dialogue between Paolo Grossi and Brian Thierny[9] who, in a recent study, has established a direct thread between  Ockham, Grotius and Windscheid on the origin of individual  rights, from Roman law to canon law, and the definition of the “subjective right” category. However, I here hasten to underline that man’s dignity is evoked by St. Thomas Aquinas as the symbol of man’s rationality (<magnae dignitatis est in rationali creatura subsistere>, Summa th., I, q. 29, a.3 ad 2) and that Pico della Mirandola devoted a speech to man’s dignity: in his De hominis dignitate he identified the difference between man and beasts in the  “divinity clothed with human flesh”, in the wise and pious contemplative spirit of man as such.

The link between dignity and religiosity – or better between dignity and the profession of a creed – is at the core of  Spinoza’s thinking[10] and I would like to recall a discovery I made in the framework of a study on identity and status: the page in which  Defoe describes Robinson’s surprise in discovering that a castaway  has landed in the island inhabited for many years – a human being of whom he does not know the intentions. Still undecided whether to kill him as a foe or assist him as a friend, Robinson  refrains from attacking him because the castaway, while introducing himself, said to him <Christianus sum>. These words revealing his identity are expressions of peace and brotherhood which are enough to save his life.

Those who study the Enlightenment, the XVII and XVIII revolutions, as well as Kant’s and his followers’ thinking, would have much to say about dignity and individual values[11]. Therefore it is important for the Lisbon Treaty – and the now consolidated version of the Treaty on the European Union – to bear this mark, this sort of chrism which reflects the history of mankind in the West, with universalistic aspirations.

In the preamble it is also easy to realize that the words used are fungible since the rights are considered values; the inviolable and inalienable rights are considered on an equal footing with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the European Charter; dignity is not mentioned, but hovers when freedom, democracy and equality are evoked. The original version already reaffirmed the signatory countries’ <attachment> to the <principles of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law> and reference was made to the principles of the 1961 European Social Charter and the 1989 Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers, but this further clarification now takes up a richer and fuller meaning.

Article 2 reaffirms that <the Union is founded on values of  respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons  belonging to minorities>. It adds: < These values are common to  the member States, in a society in which pluralism, non- discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail>. The clarification summarizes the meaning of “dignity” as a value underlying freedom and democracy; as a yardstick for equality and as support of solidarity and justice. Nevertheless, the E.U. lawmaker’s concern is the principle of unity in diversity, of cultural pluralism; gender equality; the protection of minorities – hence non-discrimination and tolerance. These are non emphatic formulas which let us understand, on the one hand, the meaning of European citizenship and, on the other, the problems underlying a union of peoples that had initially been designed only for economic purposes and must now be strengthened in its political dimension.

The use of the word “tolerance” may raise some perplexity since it appears somehow weak compared to the strongly egalitarian mark of the above-stated formulas, but clearly these are well-thought and carefully considered expressions.

Brief mention can also be made of article 4, which lays down the principle of respect for member States’ equality before treaties and especially for their “national identity”. The debate on the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty and on the German Constitutional Court judgment regarding the relationship between the Treaty and domestic constitutional law must be seen in this context. The ruling of June 30, 2009, stated the principle that the primacy of E.U. law is not absolute and the Court reserves the right to block E.U. legislation to protect sovereignty and constitutional identity.

In this respect, national constitutions are considered as the foundations of the identities of national legal orders, hence of their peoples. As jurists, we may agree, although we might reasonably wonder whether ordinary people are aware of this aspect and whether they recognise their identities as being shaped by their national constitutions rather than by their status of citizens or other connotative marks such as language, customs, traditions, history, and so forth.

Article 6 is more challenging, because of the underlying unsolved issue of a European constitution and because it shows not so much the accordance as, in my view, the opposition between the Charter of Nice and the Treaties. In fact, as laid down in Article 6 of the Charter, the Union <recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (…) which shall have the same legal value as the Treaties>. Therefore, the Charter is not acknowledged as having a pre-eminent role, as if it were the constitution of the European legal order. The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights (ECHR) is recognised in terms of the Union acceding to it, thereby stressing its conventional nature. However, it is emphasised that <Fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention (..) and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, shall constitute general principles of the Union's law>.

The provisions of the EU Charter are of course general principles; they coincide – although not fully – with the provisions of the Rome Convention. Thus, a reconciliation of principles is needed and should be performed by law interpreters, namely by the Courts (of Luxembourg and Strasbourg), whose competences are now partly competing. On top of that, because they are general principles, based on the theory of sources of law, they should be considered as taking precedence over all other principles of community law. As a consequence, whether they are enshrined in the Consolidated Version of the Treaty, in the Charter of Nice, or in the Convention (in terms of its agreed-upon content being transposed into general principles of EU law), these values – from dignity downwards – are all inviolable, fundamental, human rights and they are pivotal in the Community legal system as a whole.

This view, however, is not shared by many scholars, including above all international community law and national constitutional law experts. Nor is it shared by constitutional and supreme courts.

A short summary of this issue – which will be assertive rather than explanatory, owing to the little time and space available – may provide some insights into the issues that are currently being discussed in literature.

Fundamental rights in the Treaty of Lisbon

During the three workshops organised by the Italian Bar Council on this topic – the first one dealing with European citizenship,  the second one covering fundamental rights, and the third one dealing precisely with the Treaty of Lisbon – speakers dwelt on the headings used to present those topics. Although it does not seem obvious, a heading too shows evidence of a view or even a stance. The question was raised, for instance, as to whether the most appropriate heading should be fundamental rights “in” the Treaty of Lisbon, or fundamental rights “and” the Treaty of Lisbon. Are fundamental rights a separate issue, unconnected from law texts, by which they are (at most) recognised and protected, or do they exist because they are laid down in law texts? This issue has formed the object of a long standing controversy over the rights “recognised and protected” by our written national constitutions. The habeas corpus introduced at a European level by the EU Charter – as adapted at Strasbourg on 12th December 2007 – was established as something separate from the Treaty, although some scholars are of the opinion that this separation would produce a positive effect in terms of its increased visibility and use by citizens. Nonetheless, it would not be possible to initiate an infringement procedure against a Member State that has infringed those rights, because this procedure can only be started for failing to comply with the Treaty. The Charter does not extend the jurisdiction of national courts. Accession to the ECHR should  enhance the protection of human rights. However, would the infringement on a fundamental right by a State entitle an individual to start proceedings before the European Court of Justice?

Again: does the fact that fundamental rights are common imply that they are enforced both at a Community and at a national level? Can a multi-level form of protection be established?

Human rights in the ECHR and as enforced by the European Court of Justice

There is a huge bulk of decisions by the Court of Strasbourg, to be interpreted according to the criteria of the English case law[12] (as suggested by the very judges who make it). There have been many sensational cases, like those regarding fair trial – leading the Italian law-maker to modify Article 111 of the Constitution or to introduce a specific remedy for the compensation of citizens affected by lengthy delays in administration of justice (under the so-called Pinto Law) –, or cases regarding  expropriation – leading the law-maker to modify the expropriation rules and acknowledge adequate compensation in order to better protect the right of ownership. The Court of Strasbourg has further developed the meaning of the rights enshrined in the Convention, while exchanging views with national courts. An insightful research study carried out in some EU Member States on the enforcement of the ECHR principles by national courts has shown that although fundamental rights were adequately protected by the national constitutions of those States, the implementation of the ECHR had disruptive effects[13]. Considering its achievements, the Court of Strasbourg is considered by some authors as the constitutional court of Europe. On the other hand, this is not a far-fetched statement if we consider the ECJ multiple decisions against Italy. Among the latest ones, I would like to report the ECJ judgement N. 903 of 1st December 2009 on unequal treatment  in case of infected blood transfusion. That was the G.N. case and others, in which the Court decided that it was appropriate to exclude compensation for those who had been contaminated by HIV-infected blood before that virus was detected as detrimental to people's health, whereas it considered groundless to exclude from compensation infected patients affected by thalassaemia as well.

The transposition of the ECHR principles is not definite.

For instance, Italy's Constitutional Court considers the Convention as a source of a contractual obligation, hence comparable to statutory law, as clearly stressed by judgements N. 348 and 349 of 2007 and as frequently confirmed by later decisions. Judgement N. 311 of 2009 (concerning the employees of a local government who had become employees of the State education system, without obtaining recognition of their  length of service) established that <in case of conflict between a national rule and an ECHR provision, the national court should (…) interpret the former in conformity with the Convention provision>. Because the ECHR provisions have no direct effect, in case of conflict, the judge should raise a constitutionality question with regard to Articles 10 and 117 of the Constitution. The Constitutional Court should enforce the law in the light of the interpretation given by the Court of Strasbourg, provided that the provision does not clash with the Constitution, which would imply that the Convention provision would not be applicable.

In its judgement N. 317 of 2009 on default of appearance  by the defendant, the Court further developed the argument, by emphasising that the enforcement of the ECHR provisions should confer “additional protection” to the whole system of fundamental rights. This means that <when an ECHR provision supplements Article 117 (paragraph 1) of the Constitution, its rank in the system of sources of law is confirmed by it, as well as everything that results from it in terms of interpretation and balancing, which are part of the ordinary mission this Court is called to fulfil in all decisions that fall within its jurisdiction>.

However, as I noticed, this system seems inconsistent. Even if  it is assumed that the ECHR provisions are not directly applicable to relationships between private individuals – which was an assumption I supported in 1999, with little success –, the fact that the values enshrined in the ECHR are currently deemed to be fundamental principles in the Community legal system – as laid down in Article 6 of the Treaty on the European Union (as modified by the Treaty of Lisbon) – should lead us to reconsider the whole issue.

The European Court of Justice began implementing the Charter of Nice at least ten years ago, thereby encompassing the protection of fundamental rights among its missions. There were particularly relevant cases, such as Kreil (2000), Schmidberger (2003), Omega (2004), K.B. (2004), a case on terrorism (2005), Richards (2006), and Tadao Maruko (2008).

It is clear that fundamental rights are taken seriously and are playing “an active role”. As a result, the categories once shaped for national constitutional law systems as well as for case-law systems can be applied to fundamental rights too. The Europe of law has become the Europe of rights, and now the Europe of courts.

Doctrine, however, has warned law interpreters against being lured into extending the catalogue of rights or codifying them in a mechanical way.

Nevertheless, also in this area and field of analysis, a controversy is now occurring over ius litigatoris and ius constitutionis like the one raging over the enforcement of rules on the filtering mechanism to select appeals before supreme courts under Article 360 bis of the code of civil procedure as modified by Article 47 of Law N. 69 of 2009. In other words, the question is whether rights should be protected by creating remedies (ubi ius, ibi remedium[14]), or whether remedies should be introduced to safeguard rights (ubi remedium, ibi ius[15]).

Principle of effectiveness

That is the age-old issue of the principle of effectiveness and the adequacy of redress for protecting individuals' rights. The huge bulk of case law of the Court of Strasbourg and the new case-law of the Court of Luxembourg seem to suggest that the system works effectively – apart from the delays due to backlogs –, at least on a European and international scale. In addition, scholars have been able to document – with cases in hand – that the Court of Strasbourg has a powerful influence on the European Court of Justice.

However, the matter is different at a national level.

The Court of Cassation ruling N. 26972 of 11th November 2008 on compensation for non-pecuniary loss has raised many doubts owing not so much to the new heads of damage classification (on which I agree) as to the Court having considered that damages are payable for this loss in the cases of offence foreseen by law, in the cases provided for by special law, in the cases of infringement of “inviolable rights“ provided for by the Constitution, whereas infringement of the human rights enshrined in the ECHR is not included among those cases. This constitutionally-oriented interpretation of Articles 2043 and 2059 of the civil code was confirmed by ruling  N. 2352 of 2nd February 2010 on a case of loss of professional qualification.

With regard to effects, it is noticeable that in our legal system, any provisions concerning the legal position of “non-citizens” are widely reprehensible, namely those that affect the principles of dignity, equality, and equal opportunities. Rulings that run counter to the principle of the equal enforcement of rules implementing non-discrimination directives are equally reprehensible. Instead, rulings on the principle of informed consent are creditable.

The boustrophedon reading of the principle of dignity

The principle (value, fundamental right, boundary) of human dignity seems to be universally recognised and duly protected in national legal orders as well as in the Community legal system. However, the problem is open. Most of the friction exists in the fields of biolaw and the symbolisation of religious beliefs.

As regards the former aspect, let me refer to the age-old controversy over the cases of Jehovah's Witnesses, Welby, and Englaro[16]. The principle of human dignity has been invoked both in favour of refusing blood transfusions, of the lawfulness of  withdrawing treatment and terminating artificial nutrition and hydration, and in favour of imposing blood transfusions among believers in a vegetative state, among conscious patients and among unconscious patients.

The Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae – proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on 7th December 1965 – promoted human dignity as the foundation of religious freedom. Human dignity was also evoked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions – issued on 8th September 2008 –, in which the dignity of the person is the key for a strict interpretation of all the issues related to the use of embryos. Here, the principle of human dignity is applied to the human being at the embryonic stage.

And yet, the protection of human dignity is referred to in the Oviedo Convention of 4th April 1997 to allow for sampling, scientific research, transplantation, the use of cells and embryos, although only to a limited extent. <Parties (…) – as laid down in Article 1 – shall protect the dignity and identity of all human beings and guarantee everyone, without discrimination, respect for their integrity and other rights and fundamental freedoms with regard to the application of biology and medicine>.

The Court of Strasbourg's judgement on the display of crucifixes is to be interpreted in this light – although to an opposite end (the Lautsi v. Italy case of 3rd November 2009) , in particular as the decision stresses that <The compulsory display of a symbol of a given confession in premises used by the public  authorities, and especially in classrooms, thus restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions, and the right of children to believe or not to believe>.


The principle of dignity has drawn the most emphatic appreciation from public opinion – it has been referred to as the "the Crown jewel" – while creating the most disarming confusion  even in the cultural context where it has been thriving: it has been defined as the most elusive concept in German constitutional law. In legal doctrine, the most varied positions have been expressed. In a rather maximalist way, Jan Smits[17] - acknowledging the ambiguity of the concept – suggested to erase it from the frame of reference values. Conversely, Stefano Rodotà – who investigated fundamental rights in the wider contexts of communication, computer science, personal data, and biotechnology – considered them as the foundation of a new human anthropology[18]. Ingolf Pernice – like Article 6 of the Treaty of Lisbon – considered them as the sustainers of the whole European legal order[19]. John Aldergrove[20] referred to them as an empty box lending itself to interpretative speculation (as general principles do, according to Giovanni Tarello). However, I believe that human dignity – like all fundamental rights – should be taken seriously. After all, observance in our national legal order can be measured against the notion of dignity enshrined in the Italian Constitution, and observance in the European legal order is measured against the same yardstick, as stressed by Pietro Perlingieri[21]. Therefore, the emphasis placed on dignity as a trinitarian concept by a scholar from the University of  Montreal seems quite appropriate, for it refers to the person in its organic, physical and symbolic dimensions[22]. Human dignity, as enshrined in the Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union, has a strong symbolic and identity meaning: it reminds us – or rather, warns us – that although the European Union aims at economic integration, its model of capitalistic development places the human being at its centre and claims it as its reason for existence.

(Altalex, 18 January 2016. Article by Guido Alpa)


[1] Alpa, Dignità. Usi giurisprudenziali e confini concettuali, in Nuova giur. civ. comm. 2000, part II.

[2] Alpa, L’arte di giudicare, Roma-Bari, 1996.

[3] Consiglio nazionale forense , L’essenza della democrazia. I diritti umani e il ruolo del’avvocatura , Rome, 2010.

[4] Cassese (S.), I Tribunali di Babele (Babel Tribunals), Rome, 2009.

[5] CRUE, La dignité saisie par les juges en Europe  May 23, 2008, Pathéon Sorbonne.

[6] Justice, étique et dignité , PU  Limoges, 2004.

[7] The political pathway is described by Cangelosi, Il ventennio costituzionale dell’ Unione Europea (The European Union Constitutional Twenty-Year Period), Venice, 2009.

[8] Diritto naturale e storia (Natural law and History), Genoa, 2010 (reprint); Finnies, Natural Law and Natural Rights, Oxford, 1980.

[9] Thierney, The Idea of Natural Rights. Studies on Natural Rights, Natural Law and Church Law, 1150-1625, Atlanta, 1997 and Grossi’s review, Sui diritti umani nella civiltà giuridica medievale (Human Rights in the Middle Ages Legal Civilization) , now in Grossi, Pagine scelte (Selected excerpts), Rome-Bari, 2010 (being printed).

[10] Chaui, Spinoza e la politica (Spinoza and Politics), Milan, 1996.

[11] Rodotà, Libertà e diritti in Italia dall’ Unità ai nostri giorni, Roma, 1997.

[12] In this respect, see  Zagrebelsky (V.), La giurisprudenza casistica della Corte europea dei diritti dell’uomo. Fatto e diritto alla luce dei precedenti, in L’essenza della democrazia, quoted, p. 205 et seq. 

[13] Keller and Stone Sweet (eds), A Europe of Rights. The Impact of ECHR on National Legal Systems, Oxford, 2008.

[14] Translator's Note: where there is a right, there is a remedy.

[15] Translator's Note: where there is a remedy, there is a right.

[16] On the same topic, see Alpa, Cos’è il diritto privato?, Roma-Bari, 2008, now also available in its American version (What is Private Law?,  edited by A.Lordi, Carolina Academic Press, 2010).

[17] Smits, Huamn Dignity and Uniform Law: An Unhappy Relationship, TICOM Working Paper on Comparative and Transnational Law, No. 2008/2.

[18] L’età dei diritti al crepuscolo?, in “Italia civile” (proceedings of the conference organised to celebrate Norberto Bobbio's centenary), Torino, 15 ottobre 2009.

[19] The Treaty of Lisbon and Fundamental Rights, in Griller and Ziller (eds), The Lisbon Treaty. EU Constitutionalism  Without a Constitutional Treaty?, Wien N.Y., 2008.

[20] On Dignity, from Why We Are Not Obsolete Yet, 2000.

[21] Conclusive paper, Sisdic Congress, Capri, 25th-27 th March 2010, on the impact of international law on civil law.

[22] Knoppers, Human Dignity and Genetic Heritage: Study Paper (Law Reform Commission of Canada, 1991), p. 23.

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