The Declaration of Human Rights, 70 Years on in Europe

2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  How has this document affected Europe since its dissemination?

The principles advocated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), even seventy years on, continue to influence European activity. This implies that this document positively continues to influence all EU citizens, including adults and young people alike. Nonetheless, many realities in Europe do not seem to reflect the articles found in the UDHR.

  • The influence of the UDHR within the Europe today:

It is largely observed [1] that the European Parliament monitors contemporary human rights issues through its budgetary and supervisory powers.[2] In this way, the UDHR remains a living document within Europe. Another important mechanism related to human rights in Europe is the Charter of Fundamental Rights[3] of the European Union. This Charter is greatly inspired by the UDHR, and is considered as the most visible sign of the EU’s efforts to protect and promote human rights. Through the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty this Charter has become legally binding as from 2009.

The mechanisms mentioned above all keep the UDHR alive within Europe, and lead to the protection of human rights on supranational level down to a communal level. A good example of protection of human rights on a supranational level is the formulation of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights[4].This agency aids in making fundamental rights a reality for everyone in the EU through publications, projects and resources. Similarly, human rights protection is also evident on a communal level in Malta. An adequate example of this is seen at our very own University, where the Faculty of Law engage in the ‘UoM Human Rights Programme’[5], dedicated to promote the study of human rights and encourages research based on this topic.

  • Human Rights Issues present within Europe:

Regardless of these efforts, human rights violations continue to occur daily in Europe. These violations range from anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and beyond. In fact, in France[6], Anti-Semitic acts have increased significantly throughout 2018. In the same way,Human Rights Watch[7] notes how within Europe migration and asylum issues lead to direct to violations of human rights. Human Rights watch also notes how terrorism and counter terrorism issues contribute to the violation of human rights. Violations related to terrorism are characterised by sheer amounts of mass casualty incidents, and on the other hand, violations linked to counter terrorism methods include concerns related to freedom of expression and privacy. Therefore, even though Europe has developed greatly in terms of Human Rights policy, there is still huge room for improvement.

For those who are interested in Human Rights policy and issues, it should be noted that ELSA Malta has just published its very own Human Rights Research Paper to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This paper has been written solely by law students.


[1] Kearns P, ‘The EU And Human Rights: An Unlikely Evolution’ (2011) 2009 Amicus Curiae.

[2] ‘PowersAnd Procedures’ (Powers and procedures, 2018)<http://www.europarl.europa.eu/about-parliament/en/powers-and-procedures>

[3] ‘The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union’ (http://wwweuroparleuropaeu/charter/default_enhtm, )

[4] Europaeu, ‘European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights’ (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2018 )<http://fra.europa.eu/en>

[5] ‘UoM Human Rights Programme’ (University of Malta Website , 2018)

[6] <https://www.um.edu.mt/laws/programmes/human_rights>

SaskyaVandoorne and James Masters , ‘France hit by 69% rise in anti-Semitic acts’ [2018 ] CNN

[7] World Report 2018: Rights Trends in European Union” (Human Rights Watch January 18, 2018)<https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/european-union>accessed November 12, 2018

  “EU States Criticised for Human Rights Violations” (EU Observer)

Roberta Attard

Roberta Attard

Roberta Attard is a first-year law student at UoM. Her vast interests include, among others, history, literature and current affairs.She is small person with a big sense of humour.
Roberta Attard

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Roberta Attard

Roberta Attard is a first-year law student at UoM. Her vast interests include, among others, history, literature and current affairs. She is small person with a big sense of humour.