Defending the EU's fundamental values

MEPs demand a legally binding and effective mechanism on rule of law

Photo: EP Michal Simecka.

The EU should do much more when it comes to safeguarding the social justice and the rule of law, insisted MEPs in a resolution adopted by the lawmakers during their session in Brussels. They said the Union needs a permanent, legally binding mechanism that streamlines and makes more effective the available rule of law instruments.

This vote comes just a week after the European Commission presented its First Annual Report on the Rule of Law that gives a broad picture of what the level of strength of the rule of law is in each EU country. It zooms in on national justice systems, anti-corruption frameworks, media pluralism and freedom, and other institutional issues related to the checks and balances.

In the country chapters, the EU executive makes a thorough round-up and indicates what is missing and where, if any, the stumbling-blocks and shortcomings are, in order for the country to achieve high efficiency in the relevant field.

This Commission's exercise is an element of the new yearly cycle, called the Rule of Law Mechanism - a preventive shield that besides promoting good practices, avoids problems evolving or extending in the years to come. It is a new piece in the rule of law toolbox, together with the Treaty-based mechanisms such as infringement proceedings and the procedure to protect the founding EU values under Article 7 of the TEU.

The tool has nothing to do with the proposed budget conditionality procedure, which aims to protect the EU budget in situations where the common financial interest might be at risk.

What the Parliament is proposing is a bit different. Michal Simecka, Slovakian MEP from Renew Europe Group, who is rapporteur on the dossier, explained that the new mechanism should cover all aspects of Article 2 of the TEU and all values enshrined there.

It should ensure that compliance by Member States is not just reviewed periodically but also enforced. “Enforcement action is precisely what has so far also been missing from the Commission's otherwise thorough and very welcome report,” MEP Simecka said.

The rapporteur also warned that the Council needs to stop diluting the budget conditionality proposal. “We know that EU money has demonstrably fuelled the rise of authoritarian and corrupt politics in our Member States and this cannot continue.”

During the debate preceding the vote, Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova outlined that the Commission shares the objectives of the proposals of the Parliament. This also corresponds to our objectives for a new push for European democracy, including the first annual rule of law report published on 30 September as part of the new Comprehensive European Rule of Law Mechanism, she underlined.

But the problem is that it will continue if the proposal of the German Presidency is adopted, because it is weak and will not protect either the EU budget or the rule of law in Europe, the rapporteur opined.

They suggested the new annual monitoring cycle should include preventive and corrective sides revolving around country-specific recommendations, with timelines and targets linked to concrete measures, including Article 7 procedures, infringement proceedings, and budgetary conditionality.

The MEPs proposed an evidence-based tool that would apply equally and fairly to all Member States while respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. Parliament's proposal would consolidate and supersede existing mechanisms like, for instance, the recent Commission's rule of law report.

MEPs expect from the Commission to table a proposal on the basis of this resolution.

The lawmakers put their finger on the fact that the EU lacks the necessary tools to address an “unprecedented and escalating crisis of its founding values”, pointing to the Council's inability to make meaningful progress in ongoing Article 7 procedures and noting that this is “enabling continued divergence”.

Our proposal replaces and complements several tools that have proven to be ineffective, with a single Annual Monitoring Cycle, the rapporteur specified, noting that failure to address serious issues identified in this context “could lead to specific corrective measures, which would be more efficient than our current, incoherent framework, especially once linked to budgetary conditionality”. According to Simecka, concluding an inter-institutional agreement would send a powerful signal that the EU is serious about protecting its constitutional foundations.

Similar articles