Friday

19th Jan 2018

EU keen to rank justice systems in member states

  • "Today, everybody mentions the situation in Hungary and Romania. Are we sure that we will not see such a situation again in a couple of weeks in another EU country?" Reding said (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU justice commissioner Vivane Reding announced on Wednesday (12 September) a "justice scoreboard" to rank rule of law in the EU.

"I am prepared to come once a year before this house to share with all of you the commission's assessment of the justice systems of the 27 member states," she told MEPs in Strasbourg.

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The scoreboard would gauge the various strengths and weaknesses of each member state by benchmarking judicial "strength, efficiency and reliability."

People from Reding's department would probe the national set-ups and issue annual reports, paying particular attention to the independence of the judiciary.

Her proposal is prompted by claims of the deteriorating rule of law and justice in both Hungary and Romania.

Earlier this year, Budapest drafted changes to its constitution to weaken its central bank, restrict media freedom and help install government-friendly judges. The commission responded by launching infringement proceedings and claimed Hungary's move violated EU rules.

Romania also came under scrutiny.

The political infighting between Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ponta and President Traian Basescu drew the commission's ire.

Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso warned Ponta not to usurp the independence of the country's constitutional court in his attempts to impeach the deeply unpopular Basescu.

Ponta at first backed off, but then began piling on pressure following a failed referendum to unseat Basescu. The issue once again reached Brussels when on 10 August Barroso told Ponta to respect the court and to investigate allegations that judges were being intimidated.

The bickering was already the centre of a Brussels-executive annual report issued in July, which claimed that Bucharest was not doing enough to improve the rule of law and judicial independence.

An additional Romania report is due out before the end of the year.

Reding now wants to extend such annual reports to the rest of Europe and claims to have the backing of several member state ministries, including Germany's foreign minister.

"We need such a new mechanism. Because our infringement procedures are too technical and too slow to react in situations of high risk to the rule of law," she said.

The commissioner noted that some member states, once they join the Union, fall behind in their obligations to uphold the law.

Rebecca Harms, the British co-leader of the Green MEPs, backed Reding and told the Strasbourg plenary the commission should report on every member state's justice system.

"It is a very good that the commission now is taking a closer look at what is happening in Romania and I think it would be very good if we were to have this sort of tool available for all member states in the EU," said Harms.

Reding's spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told this website the proposal would be introduced in the commission's annual growth survey before the end of the year.

The annual growth survey marks the beginning of a 'European semester' and contains recommendations for future policy initiatives.

EU commission starts legal action against Hungary

The European Commission has launched legal action against Hungary over its new constitution, amid fears that its right-wing leader has too much control of judges and the central bank.

Rights NGOs face fresh threats in EU

While ongoing crackdowns in Poland and Hungary have put the spotlight on rights groups, NGOs are now under new political and financial pressure across the EU, the Fundamental Rights Agency said.

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