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Discussing challenges to the Rule of Law in Europe

On 12 July 2017 the European Movement International held an open discussion at the European Parliament to address current challenges to the rule of law in EU Member States and to explore ways forward in Europe.

The rule of law is one of the fundamental values on which the EU is based and the confidence of EU citizens in its functioning is essential for the further development of the EU. Recent events in some Member States have however shown a lack of respect for the rule of law, democracy and human rights, with a growing risk of civil society losing its voice and independence.

While there is a need for a mechanism to successfully monitor and supervise the EU’s founding principles and values, there is essential to continue the dialogue between the European institutions, governments, and civil society, and to define their different roles in ensuring the functioning and monitoring of the rule of law and the respect of human rights within Member States.

After welcoming words by Jo Leinen MEP, President of the European Movement International, on the importance of continuing the dialogue on the rule of law and on today’s risk of taking freedom and democracy for granted, Urmas Reinsalu, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Estonia gave a keynote speech on Estonia’s approach on safeguarding the rule of law and defending fundamental rights and values in the European Union, which he underlined as being a project of freedom.

Referring primarily to the Council’s annual Rule of Law Dialogue, the Minister assured that Estonia would make use full use of the EU’s instruments during its EU presidency, in order to continue to address breaches of EU values. The country would equally rely on support from the other EU Member States.

The debate following the speech featured Ms Kai Härmand, Deputy Secretary-General, Ministry of Justice of Estonia, Péter Niedermüller MEP (S&D Group), Member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and Philippe Dam, Advocacy Director for Europe and Central Asia, Human Rights Watch. They addressed questions, both from the moderator Petros Fassoulas, Secretary General of the European Movement International, as well as from the audience, for instance in regards to Estonia’s responsibilities during the presidency and the role of individual EU Member States.

Philippe Dam, as well as Kai Härmand, also reminded that naming and shaming certain EU Member States remained ineffective. Instead, Philippe Dam suggested the overall dialogue should concentrate on recognising that human rights abuses are happening in a number of countries. He also pointed out that it was a matter of political will or lack of courage, when it comes to responding to the dismantling of the system of checks and balances in a Member State.

Péter Niedermüller mentioned the complexities and differences in the rule of law between different Member States and stressed the need for a common approach in the EU.

Read the European Movement International’s recent position on the rule of law.

See the photos of the event:

12.07.2017 Challenges to the Rule of Law in Europe

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