30th Nov 2021

MEPs urge Sassoli to sue EU Commission on rule of law

  • MEPs want EU Parliament president David Sassoli (c) to force EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen's hand
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MEPs in the legal-affairs committee on Thursday (14 October) evening recommended that the European Parliament president, David Sassoli, should sue the EU Commission for failing to act on a potential suspension of EU funds for rule-of-law violators.

With 13 votes in favour, three against, and six abstentions, the committee said parliament should file a complaint at the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

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Many MEPs have been keeping the commission under pressure to use a 'conditionality mechanism', which came into force in January, enabling the EU executive to propose suspension of funds for member states who violated rule of law.

But the commission expects to take its first step only in autumn, saying it needed time to put together watertight charges that would stand up to challenge in the ECJ under the slogan "no case will be lost".

Prior to Thursday's vote, centre-right MEPs had cautioned against escalating tensions between the parliament and the commission.

MEPs from the European People's Party said the EU institutions were on the same side in supporting the mechanism, which had come under fire from some member states, notably Hungary and Poland, who might well be first in the firing line after its implementation.

The anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformists and far-right Identity and Democracy groups were also against pressing for action.

Meanwhile, Warsaw and Budapest have challenged the legality of the mechanism at the EU's top court in a bid to play for time, with a hearing on the case held in Luxembourg on Wednesday.

But on the other side, German MEP Tiemo Wölken, from the Socialists & Democrats group, said before the legal-affairs committee vote: "Instead of standing up to bullies and autocrats using EU money to dismantle democracy, the Commission has kicked the can down the road and failed to apply the rule-of-law conditionality regulation".

"The time has come for the Commission to face up to its failures and take responsibility," Wölken added.

"The European Parliament's action is a response to the exacerbating rule-of-law crisis and the EU Commission's continued refusal to act. We are determined to take all legal steps to make the Commission act and impose sanctions on the rule-of-law offenders in the EU," German Green MEP Daniel Freund also said after Thursday's vote.

The ball is now in the court of David Sassoli, the president of the EU Parliament, who will decide whether to call on its legal services to prepare an ECJ complaint.

Von der Leyen vows action against Poland

Ursula von der Leyen said the commission might use either an infringement procedure, an EU probe into the ruling, the new tool of conditionality which could lead to the suspension of EU funds, or the Article 7 sanctions procedure.

Polish rule-of-law debate boils over to EU summit

The summit discussion comes after the EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said this week the bloc's executive will take action against Warsaw, for challenging the supremacy of EU law.

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