This article investigates how the European Union’s political process affects the level of rights protection afforded by European Union (EU) law. It does so in two steps, firstly by analysing how institutional politics plays an important role in the evolution of the EU fundamental rights framework and secondly by demonstrating empirically how legislative interaction affects the level of protection provided by three important EU legislative acts. As the article will demonstrate, this interaction tends to result in the overall level of rights protection being increased. Analysing this finding, the article uses institutionalist theory to argue that the EU’s political process carries certain positive effects: the diversity of the legislative process (both within and between institutions) makes the explicit overlooking of rights-based concerns difficult. These findings carry implications for the increasing tendency to channel EU law and policy outside of the ‘ordinary’ legislative process.