This article explores the impact of globalization in the context of human rights enforcement within the European Union. It argues that despite the growing impact of transnational forces and supranational institutions, national mechanisms are still crucial in enforcing international obligations, so that states remain critical players rather than diminishing entities. The article considers the development of human rights as a fundamental norm within the European Union, and explores the relevance of this norm for third country (i.e. non-European) nationals. It argues that restrictionist policies designed to curtail immigration and exclude asylum seekers override international human rights obligations voluntarily entered into by the European member states. Even the concept of European Union citizenship, designed in part to address the rights deficit within Europe, has not so far created a base of fundamental rights capable of trumping state interests, but rather functions primarily as an exclusionary concept directed against non-Europeans.