Rule of law
The rule of law is one of the founding principles stemming from the common constitutional traditions of all Member States, and is one of the fundamental values upon which the European Union is based. Respect for the rule of law is a prerequisite for the protection of all fundamental values listed in the Treaties, including democracy and fundamental rights.
In recent years the Commission has been confronted with crisis events in some Member States which revealed systemic threats to the rule of law. The Commission adopted a new Framework to address systemic threats to the rule of law in any of the EU’s Member States in its 2014 Communication.
The EU Framework to strengthen the rule of law
The objective of the Framework is to prevent, through a dialogue with the Member State concerned, that an emerging systemic threat to the rule of law escalates further into a situation where the Commission would need to make use of its power of issuing a proposal to trigger the mechanisms of Article 7 TEU.
If such a threat cannot be effectively addressed by the safeguards at national level, or by the existing instruments at EU level, in particular infringement procedures, the Framework could be applied.
The Framework establishes a three-stage process: a Commission assessment, a Commission recommendation and monitoring of the Member State’s follow-up to the Commission’s recommendation. At all stages, dialogue should continue between the Commission and the Member State concerned.
If however no solution is found within the Framework, Article 7 TEU will always remain the last resort to resolve a crisis and ensure the Member State complies with EU values. Article 7 TEU provides for special mechanisms with far-reaching sanctions in case a Member State does not respect the fundamental values referred to in Article 2 TEU, including the rule of law.
- Communication from the Commission of 11 March 2014, A new EU Framework to strengthen the Rule of Law, A new EU Framework to strengthen the Rule of Law COM(2014) 158 final
- European Parliament resolution of 10 June 2015 on the situation in Hungary (2015/2700(RSP)
- European Parliament resolution of 7 September 2015 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union (2013-2014) (2014/2254(INI))
- Speech of First Vice President Timmermans of 12 February 2015 to the European Parliament: Commission Statement: EU framework for democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights
- Speech of First Vice President Timmermans of 31 August 2015 at Tilburg University: The European Union and the Rule of Law
- European Parliament resolution of 16 December 2015 on the situation in Hungary (2015/2935(RSP))
- College Orientation Debate on recent developments in Poland and the Rule of Law Framework: Questions & Answers, 13 January 2016 (MEMO/16/62)
- European Parliament resolution of 13 April 2016 on the situation in Poland (2015/3031(RSP))
- Commission adopts Rule of Law Opinion on the situation in Poland, press release 1 June 2016 (IP/16/2015)
- Commission Opinion on the Rule of Law in Poland and the Rule of Law Framework: Questions & Answers, 1 June 2016 (MEMO/16/2017)
- Commission Recommendation of 27 July 2016 regarding the rule of law in Poland : C(2016) 5703 final
- Commission issues recommendation to Poland: Press release (IP/16/2643)
- Commission Recommendation regarding the Rule of Law in Poland: Questions & Answers (MEMO/16/2644)