The European Commission identifies deficiencies in the rule of law in some Member States. In these countries, financial support will have to be cut in the future. With Poland and Hungary, two of the affected countries are heading for the barricades.
A majority of EU countries have initiated proceedings to sanction violations of the rule of law within the Union, despite threats from Hungary and Poland. A corresponding proposal by the German EU Council Presidency has received the necessary support in Brussels, as a spokesman has announced.
Negotiations with the European Parliament can now begin. In the latter case, the proposed procedure is likely to be tightened again. A number of MPs recently described the German proposal as too cautious. The majority vote is explosive as Hungary and Poland threaten to block important EU decisions on the EU long-term budget if the new rule of law mechanism is introduced. This could mean, for example, that Corona’s planned stimulus package cannot start.
Signs of “cowardice and lack of principle”
Among other things, the proposal by the German Presidency of the EU provides for cuts in EU financial aid to be approved if breaches of the rule of law have a “sufficiently direct” influence on management. Budgetary and financial interests of the Union. Indeed, the European Commission has proposed to allow sanctions when a lack of the rule of law threatens to undermine the basic requirements of good financial management.
According to the German EU Council Presidency, however, it would have violated a decision taken at the EU summit in July to join it. There, the heads of state and government of the member states stipulated that sanctions should only be possible “in the event of violations”.
The planned weakening of the planned mechanism was recently heavily criticized in the European Parliament. MEPs called the proposal of the German Presidency of the EU at the beginning of this week “cowardly and in principle inadequate”. Nor does it go far enough for the governments of the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium. However, they were unable to block him on Wednesday in the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States, nor were Hungary and Poland.
Polish judicial reforms, source of great controversy
The European Commission had previously identified deficits in the rule of law in some Member States. In its first report on the subject, the Brussels authority mainly refers to the restrictions on the judiciary and the media that pose a risk to democratic standards. The report is expected to be published today. The corona crisis is a kind of “stress test” for respect for the rule of law in EU countries.
Some of the measures some states have taken in response to the crisis have gone too far. “In some Member States, the media and civil society have encountered new barriers. In addition, the independence of the judiciary has been undermined.
Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Slovakia are specifically mentioned in the report. “The judicial reforms in Poland since 2015 are a source of great controversy,” the report said. The changes give cause for concern about the independence of the judiciary in Hungary as well. With regard to corruption, the Commission criticized Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta and Slovakia.
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