MEPs lament lack of rule of law implementation, threaten EU court action

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A number of MEPs have lamented the fact that the European Commission has failed to apply the Rule of Law Conditionality Mechanism. Speaking out against what they described as ‘delaying tactics’, European liberals announced a tabling of a Parliamentary resolution, to be voted by MEPs next week, to take the Commission to Court via the triggering of Article 265 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

These views were echoed by the EPP Group, with the centre-right European party insiting that it had long called for an EU-wide mechanism that would monitor the state of the rule of law in the Member States in a balanced and non-discriminatory way.

Lukas Mandl MEP who is responsible for the Parliament’s reaction to the European Commission’s Rule of Law Report, said that “developments in Member States remain alarming. The rule of law is one of the founding values of the European Union and is essential for the functioning of our democracies and the protection of citizens and their rights. There are serious issues raised within the Commission report. The alarming state of the judicial independence in Hungary and Poland is worrying. There are also challenges in other Member States as well as threats against journalists and media freedom. The challenges to media freedom are interlinked with the undermining of artistic freedom and academic freedom”, he added.

Dacian Cioloş, President of Renew Europe – a coaliton of Liberals – added: “Renew Europe fought tooth and nail to establish the Rule of Law conditionality mechanism, which creates a link between upholding the Rule of Law and receiving EU funding. The European Parliament gave the Commission the deadline of 1 June to enforce the regulation that has been applicable as of 1 January 2021. Now the deadline is not met, our group intends to push for the triggering of Article 265 in the Treaties in order to take legal action against the Commission for its failure to act. The credibility of the European Union is at stake. We have made a commitment to the citizens of Europe who now expect us to be consistent. It is urgent to act”.

The Greens would also be likely to support the motion by the liberals, according to MEP Daniel Freund. “The deadline has lapsed and the Commission is still refusing to bring a case forward,” Freund told reporters. “This is – by definition – inaction. European Parliament bringing this case to the ECJ (European Court of Justice) is the logical conclusion,” he added.

Terry Reintke, Vice-President of @GreensEFA in the European Parliament recently tweeted that “we are in the middle of a rule of law crisis”.

While none of the statements published this week made any reference to Malta, earlier this year the EP had called for further reforms in terms of the application of rule of law in Malta.

In a resolution adopted last April, Parliament noted that “there are serious and persistent threats to EU values in the country, including media freedom, judicial and police independence, and the freedom of assembly”. At the same time, MEPs noted that the Government of Malta has made some progress in relation to the rule of law and judicial independence. MEPs also acknowledged the steps taken by the Maltese authorities to protect independent journalism, stressing that further improvements are needed, and calling on the Maltese authorities to implement the EU whistle-blower directive.

The EP’s view was shared by the Centre for European Reform, with Senior Fellow Camino Mortera-Martinez arguing that defending the rule of law may be the EU’s most pressing task over the coming years. To uphold the rule of law, the EU needs a broad strategy that includes credible and enforceable anti-corruption measures.

For the EU and its member-states, the need to support a rules-based international order – an order that the Union itself is based upon – is existential.

Renew Europe said that ready to build a majority in the European Parliament for a resolution pushing to take the Commission to court, and called on the other political groups to join forces with us.

This article forms part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. These articles reflect only the authors’ views. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information these articles contain.