Sunday

27th May 2018

Justice commissioner links EU funds to 'rule of law'

  • EU justice commissioner Jourova in Finland: "The judiciary cannot be ignorant to the will of elected law makers." (Photo: European Commission)

EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova said Tuesday that the EU should consider creating stronger conditionality between the rule of law and the EU cohesion funds geared toward poorer member states.

The Czech commissioner in a speech in Helsinki outlined how the EU executive could better uphold the rule of law across the European Union.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"[...] We need to make better use of EU funds for upholding the rule of law. [...] In my personal view we should consider creating stronger conditionality between the rule of law and the cohesion funds," Jourova said in Helsinki.

Jourova's speech in Finland appeared to be directed partly towards Poland and Hungary.

She recalled that in an earlier paper by the Commission in preparation for talks on the next seven-year EU budget, due to kick off next May, the executive said that upholding EU core values when developing and implementing EU policies is key, and that there is a clear relationship between the rule of law and an efficient implementation of the private and public investments supported by the EU budget.

Jourova argued that "there will be no efficient regional and cohesion policy without the rule of law, because the corruption and fraud will leave their marks".

Tying EU funds to rule of law issues, or political conditions has been a controversial issue, but is one that keeps popping up as discussions over the next EU budget cycle are approaching.

Some net contributors to the EU budget have been arguing introducing such conditions that would help uphold the respect for common rules.

Hungary and Poland

Concerns have been raised especially after governments in Hungary and Poland refused to accept asylum seekers under an EU scheme and have challenged the rule of law in their own country.

"The EU is not a project where we can pick and choose among the rules and obligations that apply. Nor is the EU a cash dispenser doling out money with no strings attached," Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven said recently in a speech about Europe.

Recipients of the EU's cohesion funds – designed to help the economic convergence of poorer areas – argue that it is counterproductive and against the treaty to tie EU funds to political conditions.

The EU Commission has launched a rule of law probe on the Warsaw government the first time in its history, and the executive has been struggling to tackle Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban's autocratic tendencies.

'Chain of Christmas lights'

Jourova attempted to unpick the arguments often used by Warsaw and Budapest against what they see as EU interference in the national judicial system.

She argued that the rule of law is not only a national competence, because national courts have to uphold EU law. "This means that if one national system of judiciary is broken, the EU system is broken," she said.

"The judicial system in the EU is like a chain of Christmas lights. When one light goes off, others don't light up and the chain is dark," she added.

Jourova also added that while the majority have the right to rule in a democracy, the rule of law ensures that the majority's power does not go unchecked.

"The essence of democracy is that the minorities know and trust that the law will protect them from the changes that go beyond certain limits," she said, adding: "In democracy, you cannot try to dismantle the judiciary, because you won the elections."

Jourova also said in her speech that she would be in favour of an event to discuss how best uphold the rule of law in the EU.

The EU has been struggling for years to tackle rule of law challenges, with several ideas floated in Brussels - from a special committee checking member states' rule of law, to stronger Commission oversight, to the use of the Article 7 that could eventually suspend the voting rights of an EU country.

So far, EU countries have been reluctant to sanction one another over rule of law issues.

Tying EU funds to politics could be double-edged

EU taxpayer money to countries challenging EU core values? The answer might seem obvious, but not to those on the receiving end of the EU subsidies, who argue that most of the money trickles back.

Interview

Poland ready to be EU budget net contributor

Poland would accept increasing its contribution, but will oppose any politicisation of EU funds, says its deputy minister of economic development.

Opinion

EU should ensure sustainable Cohesion Policy

As the EU Council kicks off negotiations over the post-2020 budget, ministers have have an opportunity to create a framework that will unlock innovative financing and scale up the citizen-led clean energy transformation

Juncker seeks budget whip on unruly states

EU officials want discretionary powers to suspend funds from states that violate treaty values, in a bold power grab amid likely clashes with Hungary and Poland.

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

Opinion

Linking EU funds to 'rule of law' is innovative - but vague

Defining what constitutes 'rule of law' violations may be more difficult than the EU Commission proposes, as it tries to link cohesion funds in east Europe to judicial independence. A key question will be who is to 'judge' those judges?

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations