Saturday

8th May 2021

Opinion

Rule-of-law deal: major step for Europe of values

  • At the very moment when an incumbent president was carrying out staggering attacks on the foundations of democracy, the European Parliament obtained a historic agreement to protect the rule of law in Europe (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

In recent days, the eyes of the world have been fixed on the US elections. And yet, at the very moment when an incumbent president across the Atlantic was carrying out staggering attacks on the foundations of democracy, the European Parliament obtained a historic agreement to protect the rule of law in Europe.

The battle we have just won is not against this or that.

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  • Dacian Cioloș: 'Europe is not just a cash machine, even if some people dream of it' (Photo: European Parliament)

It is a deterrent to defend the rights of citizens from west to east, from north to south.

The European Commission will now be able to suspend funding, including from the recovery fund established in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, for countries that do not respect the values set out in Article 2 of the Union Treaty.

This article needs to be re-read, especially in times of budgetary negotiations.

The latter sometimes give the impression that our Union is a club of carpet merchants. This is not the case!

Europe is not just a cash machine, even if some people dream of it.

As a young Romanian student in the 1990s, my enthusiasm for Europe was driven by its ideals of freedom, democracy and humanist values. It remains intact.

In today's world, where autocratic vocations are multiplying, we must recall the wealth of this model, and defend it.

The demonstrations in Bucharest in 2017 against Liviu Dragnea's regime showed it: citizens no longer want a leaden blanket, plagued by corruption, the seizure of power and the misuse of justice.

Europe is "founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities". It must uphold them.

Pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, independence of the judiciary, solidarity and equality between men and women: these rights forge our identity.

'Muzzle judges, ban abortion'

Whether the Polish government likes it or not, whether it wants to muzzle its judges or ban abortion, all EU countries have signed up to these principles.

Part of the political class has turned attacks on Europe and its values into a business, capitalising on crises and fears. The red line is now clear: not one euro for those forces that want to destroy our most fundamental principles.

In an objective, non-partisan way, the EU Commission is charged with taking stock of the state of the rule of law. It will no longer be enough to cry wolf. It will be necessary to act. It will have the power to do so.

Parliament will ensure that it uses it, without penalising farmers, entrepreneurs, researchers and NGOs whose governments have embarked on an illiberal course.

This protection is a real change of direction, which I hope will soon prove its effectiveness.

It echoes the civil society movements that carry the ideal of Europe, a community of values. The Union will then be able to emerge as a real power where material prosperity is all the more solid when it is accompanied by shared values and a shared vision of the world.

Author bio

Dacian Cioloș MEP is a former prime minister of Romania and the leader of the liberal Renew Europe group in the European Parliament.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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