The European Convention on Human Rights after Enlargement

Robert Harmsen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The Council of Europe has dramatically enlarged its membership over the past decade, encompassing the vast majority of the formerly Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. With this dramatic enlargement, the Council has sought to secure its place in the complex institutional architecture of post-Cold War Europe, building on its traditional strengths in the promotion of democratic governance and human rights. Yet, both inside and outside the organisation, voices have been raised to suggest that the Council has lowered its admission standards in a manner which risks compromising the legitimacy of the European Convention on Human Rights. Against the background of these ongoing controversies, this article assesses the impact of enlargement on the European human rights system. Focusing on the composition of the European Court of Human Rights and the initial pattern of cases from the Central and East European member states, it is demonstrated that the short-term impact of enlargement has been quite limited. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Court will face major new challenges over the coming years. In part, the Court will have to assume the role of an adjudicator of transition. More generally, there will also be mounting pressures for it to (re)cast itself more clearly as a European constitutional court.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)18-43
    Number of pages26
    JournalThe International Journal of Human Rights
    Volume5 (4)
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2001

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