Rule of Law: MEPs critical of Commission’s annual report, suggest improvements

(Source: European Parliament)

  • Call for broader scope and more in-depth, transparent assessment
  • Concrete, country-specific recommendations and targets needed
  • Findings should be linked to corrective measures at EU level
  • EU needs “rule of law” and “European civic space” indices

Parliament says Commission’s assessment of the rule of law in the EU is useful but has significant room for improvement.

On Thursday, Parliament adopted its review of the Commission’s 2021 annual Rule of Law Report with 429 votes for, 131 against and 34 abstentions.

Methodological shortcomings

MEPs were disappointed that, despite Parliament’s suggestions, the Commission still does not address the numerous, interlinked concerns about the state of the entire range of EU values in member states. The report should differentiate between systemic and individual breaches of EU values, and perform a more in-depth, transparent assessment.

It should also move away from “descriptive documentation” and towards an “analytical and prescriptive” approach that would identify cross-cutting trends, including possible systemic vulnerabilities, at the EU level. Absent this, the current report fails to clearly recognise the “deliberate process of the rule of law backsliding” in Poland and Hungary, and fails to identify deficiencies in other EU countries. Parliament also states that simply presenting “deficiencies or breaches of a different nature or intensity” risks trivialising more serious issues.

Suggestions for an effective framework

Welcoming the Commission’s intention to include country-specific recommendations in the 2022 report, MEPs suggest a direct link should be established between the report’s findings and the activation of corrective measures, e.g. Article 7budget conditionality, and infringement procedures (the latter of which should be triggered automatically). They also call on the Council and the Commission to enter into negotiations for a permanent, comprehensive mechanism to protect EU values. Parliament proposes setting up a “rule of law index”, based on a quantitative assessment by independent experts of each country’s performance. MEPs also call for a “European civic space index”, to address the obstacles that organisations and individuals face in member states.

Quote

The rapporteur Terry Reintke (Greens/EFA, DE) said: “If we let the rule of law erode, the pillars of our Union will collapse. Today we made our expectations for the European Commission very clear: it needs to fulfil its duty as the guardian of the Treaties. The Commission’s annual rule of law report must develop real teeth if it is not to be just another instrument for unwilling governments to ignore.”

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