The Commission opens a debate to strengthen the rule of law in the EU and adopts an update of the second Enhanced Surveillance Report for Greece
Rule of Law
The European Commission launched today a reflection process on the rule of law in the European Union and set out possible avenues for future action.
The Communication presented today takes stock of the available tools to monitor, assess, and protect the rule of law in the Union. It also looks back at the experience of the past years so that a wider European debate can start on how the rule of law could be further strengthened. The past experience, in particular, points to the need for better promotion of the rule of law, early prevention of risks or breaches to the rule of law, and effective response when such issues occur in the Union.
Building on the ongoing debates and past experience today's Communication aims to start this process by setting out possible avenues for reflection on future action.
Concretely, the Commission outlined today three pillars which could contribute to making the enforcement of the rule of law in the Union more effective:
· Better Promotion: rule of law standards and jurisprudence are not always sufficiently known at national level. To address this, increased efforts should be geared towards better promoting knowledge of the rule of law standards and case law at national level. This could be achieved, for instance, through communication activities for the public, common EU approaches that help promote a stronger rule of law culture across institutions and professions, continued engagement with the Council of Europe, and participation of civil society at the regional and local levels.
· Early prevention: While the prime responsibility to ensure respect for the rule of law at national level lies with the Member States, the EU can offer important support to build resilience of key systems and institutions. Regular cooperation and dialogue could contribute to a deeper understanding of the rule of law situation and developments in Member States and could contribute to the early resolution of any rule of law issues.
· Tailored response: A diversity of rule of law challenges requires a diversity of effective responses. The Commission will continue to ensure the correct application of the EU law via infringement procedures. Different approaches may also be appropriate in specific policy areas such as the Commission's proposal on the protection of EU's financial interest. In addition, some refinement to the existing Rule of Law Framework could be explored, including early information to and support from the European Parliament and the Council, as well as clear timelines for the duration of dialogues.
The Commission has also today decided to register a European Citizens' Initiative entitled ‘Respect for the rule of law within the European Union', which coincides with the launch of this reflection process. The aim of the initiative is to create ‘an objective and impartial evaluation mechanism to verify the application of the European Union's values by all the Member States'. The Commission considered the initiative legally admissible and decided to register it. At this stage in the process, the Commission has not analysed the substance of the initiative, only its legal admissibility. The registration of this initiative will take place on 8 April 2019, starting a one-year process of collection of signatures of support by its organisers.
The Commission has also launched an infringement procedure against Poland regarding the new disciplinary regime for judges in order to protect them from political control. The new disciplinary regime undermines the judicial independence of Polish judges by not offering the necessary guarantees to protect them from political control, as required by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Polish government has 2 months to reply to the Commission’s Letter of Formal Notice.
Update to second Enhanced Surveillance Report for Greece
The Commission has adopted an update of the second Enhanced Surveillance Report for Greece detailing progress in implementing policy commitments since the publication of the report on 27 February 2019. At that point, the second Enhanced Surveillance Report found that considerable progress had been made in completing the implementation of specific reform commitments, but that a number of issues remained outstanding. Given developments since then, today's update concludes that Greece has now taken the necessary actions to achieve all specific reform commitments that were due end-2018. The Report notes that the Greek authorities should continue to ensure the sustained implementation of agreed reforms, as per their commitments at the Eurogroup of June 2018. The contents of the Enhanced Surveillance Report of 27 February 2019 and this subsequent update could be used by the Eurogroup to agree the release of a first tranche of policy-contingent debt measures.
Communication: Further strengthening the Rule of Law within the Union – State of play and possible next steps
Factsheet: EU Toolbox on the Rule of Law
Press Release – European Citizens' Initiative: Commission registers ‘Respect for the rule of law' initiative
Press Release – Rule of Law: European Commission launches infringement procedure to protect judges in Poland from political control
3 April 2019