On Wednesday, the Court of Justice of the European Union will issue its ruling on the legality of the European Rule of Law Mechanism under the rule of law conditionality regulation, in response to a case brought by the governments in Hungary and Poland asking for its annulment. The regulation establishes a general regime of conditionality that ensures the protection of the EU budget from breaches of the rule of law affecting the EU’s financial interests. The European Council reached a compromise on the draft regulation on 11 December 2020. The final act was then published by the Commission on 22 December 2020 and entered into force on 1 January 2021. On 11 March 2021, the governments in Hungary and Poland launched legal action before the European Court of Justice challenging the legality of the Commission’s regulation and the mechanism it aims to establish.
The governments in Hungary and Poland argue that the mechanism does not provide legal certainty and violates EU Treaties, while the European Parliament, the Commission and Council have repeatedly defended its legal validity. The Court of Justice is set to settle that argument.
The European Rule of Law Mechanism was born out of the real danger that political interference on the independence of the judiciary, systemic and unchecked corruption, the deterioration of media pluralism as well as the continuous attacks against civil society in EU member states can threaten the EU’s financial interests.
No government is above the law. Weaker checks and balances risk deteriorating the rule of law and citizens’ fundamental rights. Governments in Hungary and Poland, but also across the EU, need to ensure that their judiciaries are independent and their judicial systems apply EU law effectively. Should this not be the case, the Commission must take action and trigger the Rule of Law Mechanism without further delay, as the European Parliament has been reiterating, while the recovery plan for the Member States in question should not be approved. EU taxpayers’ money shall not be granted to governments that undermine European values and do not respect the rule of law.
- European Commission: 2021 Rule of Law Report – Hungary and Poland
- European Council: Conclusions (10-11 December 2020)
- European Parliament: Resolution on the Rule of Law Situation in the EU
- 16 February 2022: European Parliament’s Plenary debate on the ECJ Ruling
- 3 April 2022 : Hungarian parliamentary election
The European Movement International position
As we argue in our policy position on the rule of law, the European Movement International supports the application of the Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation. This instrument will help combat the misuse of European funds and curb corruption in the EU. The regulation needs to be applied as soon as possible and retroactively to all deficiencies which have occurred since the conditionality has entered into force on 1 January 2021. Compliance with the rule of law is essential to protecting and fostering democracy in the European Union.
Maintaining the coherence and consistency of internal practices and the external promotion of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights are key to the functioning of the Union. Existing mechanisms should be enforced, evaluated, and complemented in the framework of a fully-fledged rule of law mechanism. This could be done by institutionalising the rule of law dialogue to enable Member States to respond without delay to the Commission’s recommendations.