A majority of EU countries have initiated a process to punish violations of the rule of law. They ignored threats from Hungary and Poland. EU states outvote Hungary and Poland in the legal dispute.
EU states outvote Hungary and Poland in the legal dispute
Notwithstanding the threats from Hungary and Poland, a majority of EU countries have initiated proceedings to punish violations of the rule of law within the Union. A corresponding proposal by the German EU Council Presidency received the necessary support in Brussels on Wednesday, according to a spokesman. According to AFP information, seven countries rejected the proposal, including Hungary and Poland.
The majority decision is particularly explosive because Hungary and Poland are threatening to block important EU decisions on the long-term Community budget if the new rule of law mechanism is introduced. This could mean, for example, that the planned Corona economic stimulus program cannot start.
Proposal provides for cuts in grants
The proposal of the German EU Council Presidency provides, among other things, to allow cuts in EU financial aid if breaches of the rule of law have a “sufficiently direct” influence on budget management and the Union’s financial interests.
The EU Commission has actually proposed that penalties should be made possible when a lack of the rule of law threatens to impair the basic requirements for sound financial management.
In the opinion of the German EU Council Presidency, however, it would have violated a decision at the EU summit in July to adhere to it. There the heads of state and government of the member states stipulated that sanctions should only be possible “in the event of violations”.
Corona crisis as a stress test for the rule of law
The proposed weakening of the planned mechanism was recently sharply criticized from within the ranks of the European Parliament. MEPs described the proposal submitted by the German EU Council Presidency earlier this week as a sign of “cowardice and lack of principles”. Nor does it go far enough for the governments in the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium. However, they were not able to block him on Wednesday in the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States, any more than Hungary and Poland.
The EU Commission had previously identified deficits in the rule of law in some member states. In its first ever report on the subject, the Brussels authority refers mainly to restrictions on the judiciary and the media, which pose a risk to democratic standards. It also says that the corona crisis is a kind of “stress test” for compliance with the rule of law in EU countries. The report is due to be presented today.