Monday

25th Sep 2017

EU officials seek new powers to protect rule of law

  • 'The European Commission has a crucial role in upholding the rule of law as the Guardian of the Treaties,' says Barroso (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The European Commission on Tuesday (11 March) announced a new measure to challenge member states in breach of EU rule of law.

The proposal would allow the European Union to intervene at an early stage in case of “serious and systemic threats” to the rule of law in member states. Isolated cases of breaches of fundamental rights or miscarriages of justice are excluded from its scope.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters in Strasbourg that the Brussels executive in recent years has been confronted by a number of cases from member states which posed a threat or potential threat.

“All the institutions have turned to the commission and asked us to react,” he said.

The plan is described as a missing element between a standard infringement procedure and the 'nuclear option' of Article 7, which withdraws a member state’s voting rights at the EU level.

Article 7 has proven difficult to use in practice. There were discussions about invoking it when Austria's centre-right party went into government with the far-right Freedom Party in 2000.

More recently there was some informal discussion about using the clause against Hungary after its government introduced controversial new laws. However, it was seen as too strong.

“Something is missing and this is what we are presenting now,” said Barroso.

Speaking alongside Barroso, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said the new system is needed because the commission has been forced to react on an ad-hoc basis whenever member states misbehaved.

“We have to have a system, which is set in stone, which is institutionalised,” noted Reding.

The proposed new system is a three-step process.

The first step is a commission assessment of the problem. If a problem is identified, then the commission issues a warning in a “rule of law opinion”.

If the problem is not resolved, then the commission will issue a “rule of law recommendation”, which says what needs to be done and by when.

The commission will then follow-up the recommendation in the third step.

If the member state does not implement the recommendation and misses the deadline, then the commission can invoke Article 7.

“The new tool to safeguard the rule of law will be applicable under the same threshold of a serious and systemic threat to the rule of law to all member states, big or small, North, South, East or West,” said Reding.

The article was corrected at 11h50 CET on Wednesday 12 March as it previously said that Article 7 had been invoked against Austria in 2000. This was not the case. Member states imposed sanctions on Austria but did not use Article 7

Response to Hungary is test for EU

Faced with a deteriorating situation on human rights and democracy in Hungary, Brussels has failed to show the necessary resolve.

Hungary and Poland defy EU authority

Hungary and Poland have said they "don't want a mixed population", amid a tug-of-war with the Commission on migrants and rule of law.

EU agency to fight election hacking

A new-model EU cybersecurity agency could help states defend their elections against "hybrid attacks", the Commission has said.

EU monitoring Cyprus passport sales

The European Commission has said it is in a "dialogue" with Cyprus amid concerns on loopholes in its passport sale scheme.

EU monitoring Cyprus passport sales

The European Commission has said it is in a "dialogue" with Cyprus amid concerns on loopholes in its passport sale scheme.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEU Finance Ministers Agreed to Develop New Digital Taxation Rules
  2. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  3. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  4. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  6. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  7. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  10. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  11. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  12. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel