Today, the College of Commissioners will present the 2022 Rule of Law report, which monitors significant developments relating to the rule of law in all 27 Member States. This is the third instalment of the annual rule of law review cycle introduced by the European Commission in 2020. The report is a monitoring tool, collecting data of the state of rule of law in each Member State without drawing legal conclusions or providing country-specific recommendations.
The report forms part of the EU’s rule of law toolbox at the disposal of the institutions to promote and defend the EU’s founding values. On 19 May, the European Parliament adopted its review of the 2021 Rule of Law Report noting that the current report does not clearly recognise the ‘deliberate process of the rule of law backsliding’ in Poland and Hungary and that it fails to identify deficiencies in other EU Member States. Last month, the European Council reiterated the importance of rule of law reforms during its discussion on the Western Balkans and enlargement.
The 2021 Rule of Law report highlighted that rule of law is under pressure in several Member States. It is important that all Member States that may be included in the 2022 report address any issues highlighted in the report. The rule of law annual review cycle is an important step towards making Member States more accountable when it comes to their adherence of Union values. However, it needs to go further as democratic backsliding is visible in a number of European countries. The reports are descriptive in nature rather than prescriptive and lack concrete follow up to address the issues flagged. Furthermore, the inclusion of a chapter on civic space would create more accountability and a link to citizens.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February once again highlighted the importance of democracy and the values that underpin it, which are the foundation of the European ideal. The Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, which took over from France on 1 July, has prioritised the rule of law in its six-month programme. It is important that the Czech Presidency keeps the rule of law and protection of fundamental values at the core of the EU’s agenda. This can only be achieved through a strong checks and balances system which strengthens the rule of law and protects citizens’ fundamental rights, with the Czech Presidency focussing on the independence of mass media and an open dialogue with citizens.
European Parliament: Study by LIBE Committee on 2021 Rule of law Report February 2022
European Commission: 2021 Rule of Law Report
12-15 September: European Parliament Plenary Session
20 September: General Affairs Council
The European Movement International position
As we outlined in our policy position on The Rule of Law, the European Movement International believes compliance with the rule of law is essential to protecting and fostering democracy in the European Union. By maintaining the coherence and consistency of the internal practice and external promotion of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights are key to the credibility of the Union. Therefore, existing mechanisms should be enforced, evaluated, and complemented in the framework of a fully-fledged rule of law mechanism.
The integration and incorporation of existing monitoring tools into one integrated and independent authority that regularly monitors institutional compliance with the Union’s fundamental values is desirable. Coherence in compliance will provide more clarity for citizens in their rights as well as certainty for Member States in terms of implementation. To this end, the European Movement supports calls for a ‘democracy watchdog‘ with a mandate to routinely monitor the situation of the rule of law in all the EU‘s Member States. Such an authority could contribute to a yearly cycle of policy coordination integrated in the European Semester, with a view to fostering democracy in the Member States.