Communication and country chapters
The 2021 Rule of Law Report, including its 27 country chapters, presents positive and negative developments across the Member States in four key areas for the rule of law: the justice system, the anti-corruption framework, media pluralism and other institutional issues related to checks and balances. This year’s report consolidates the exercise started by the 2020 report, deepening the Commission’s assessment and further developing on the impact and challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country chapters, which rely on a qualitative assessment carried out by the Commission, analyse new developments since the first report and the follow-up to the challenges and developments identified in the 2020 Report.
The Report is part of broader EU efforts to promote and defend its founding values. This work includes the European Democracy Action Plan and the renewed Strategy for the Implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as targeted strategies to progress towards a “Union of Equality”. Another related aspect is monitoring the application of EU law and the protection of fundamental rights under the Charter, including through the use of infringement proceedings.
The assessment contained in the 27 country chapters has been prepared in line with the methodology discussed with the Member States. The country chapters do not purport to give an exhaustive description of all rule of law issues in every Member State, but to present significant developments. The assessment refers to EU law requirements, including those resulting from the case-law of the CJEU. In addition, the recommendations and opinions of the Council of Europe provide a useful frame of reference for relevant standards and best practices.
The Rule of Law Report is the result of close collaboration with Member States and relies on a variety of sources. All Member States participated in the process, providing written contributions and joining in dedicated country visits held between March and May. For these country visits, the Commission organised more than 400 virtual meetings with national authorities, independent bodies and stakeholders, including civil society A targeted stakeholder consultation also provided valuable horizontal and country-specific contributions. The Council of Europe also provided an overview of its recent opinions and reports concerning EU Member States. Prior to the adoption of this report, Member States have been given the opportunity to provide factual updates on their country chapter.
The network of national rule of law contact points established in 2020 to help setting up the mechanism, has continued to function as an ongoing channel of communication with Member States for the preparation of the Report as well as to exchange best practices.
Input from member states
All Member States were invited to provide information on significant developments, primarily since the adoption of the first annual Rule of Law Report. The information was structured around the four pillars covered by the Report - the justice system, the anti-corruption framework, media pluralism, and other institutional issues related to checks and balances – and was provided in an agreed template. The written input from Member States was supplemented by exchanges during the country visits and by information received from stakeholders.
Targeted stakeholder consultation
As part of the preparation of the 2021 Rule of Law Report, the European Commission invited stakeholders to provide written contributions through a targeted stakeholder consultation opened from 1 February to 8 March 2021. The consultation has provided over 200 horizontal and country-specific contributions from a variety of EU agencies, European networks, national and European civil society organisations and professional associations and international and European actors. The information obtained from this consultation has contributed to the assessment of the Commission with factual findings on developments in the Member States.