Fundamental rights lost in translation?

Fundamental rights are everywhere. But, as becomes particularly clear during the pandemic, when balanced again other rights and interests, they often do not prevail. In this paper, I first discuss how this may lead to a ‘mismatch’ between expectations towards rights and the way they work. Rights may seem to offer less protection than their reputation implies, or merely seem concerned with protecting ‘the other’. Secondly, I deal with the question of how this gap came about and in doing so point at several widely adopted modes of interpretation and application, such as evolutive interpretation in combination with proportionality review. Finally, it is argued that omnipresent but relative rights may nevertheless contribute to the legitimacy of the modern constitutional and administrative State and the decisions it takes if at least the mismatch between expectations and perceived outcomes is taken seriously.