Rule of Law conditionality: MEPs call on the Commission to act immediatelyPicture-alliance/Pacific Press/B. Zawrzel
Following the Court of Justice ruling on the “rule of law conditionality” mechanism, MEPs demand that the Commission applies it and protects EU values.
“The rule of law is our treasure”, said Clément Beaune on behalf of the French Presidency of the Council. He welcomed the “necessary legal clarity” given today by the Court and said that the French Presidency now expects the Commission to implement it. The French Presidency is committed to mobilising all the tools to protect the rule of law, he stressed.
Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn said that the Court’s ruling is now being analysed by the Commission, which will swiftly finalise its guidelines on how to apply the regulation. He underlined that the mechanism is one of the tools in the EU’s rule of law protection toolbox and that it is key to choose the right tools to address specific problems. He reassured MEPs that the Commission was monitoring the situation across member states to identify any potential breaches to the rule of law and pointed out that it has already sent informal letters to two member states. Pointing to President Ursula von der Leyen’s statement, he said that when the conditions of the regulation have been fulfilled, the Commission will act with determination.
“Today is a day of victory for Parliament”, MEPs said, stressing that the ECJ ruling confirmed the Parliament’s stance that EU money should not go to governments that violate EU values. Many underlined that now the Commission had run out of excuses for delays. Many speakers said they had had enough of hearing bureaucratic excuses, while some member states were being taken over by tyrants, with justice systems degrading, freedom of press restricted and minorities’ rights curtailed. They recalled that the Commission’s role is to guard the EU treaties and protect the founding values to which all EU countries have committed.
Some speakers accused the EU institutions of punishing Hungary and Poland for political reasons and discriminating between “better” and “worse”. Rule of law problems and politicised justice systems exist also in other EU countries, such as Germany and Spain, they said.
Watch extracts from the debate here
The budget conditionality regulation aims to protect EU funds from being misused by national governments that breach the rule of law. The regulation entered into force on 1 January 2021. So far, the Commission has not applied it.
On 11 March 2021, Poland and Hungary challenged the regulation in the EU Court of Justice.
On 16 February 2022, the EU Court of Justice issued a ruling that actions by Hungary and Poland against the rules on conditionality, which protect the European Union’s budget, should be dismissed.