Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

Finland's EU presidency wants to push rule of law

Finland aims to put defending the rule of law at the centre of its six-month EU presidency, which starts on 1 July.

Poland and Hungary has been at the forefront of rule of law concerns in the EU for several years, but member states and EU institutions have been unable to address the issue with tangible consequences.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The EU commission launched a so-called Article 7 procedure against Poland in 2016 for having breached the independence of the judiciary, while the EU parliament triggered the same procedure against Hungary calling on member states to holding the country accountable for sliding back on democratic freedoms.

Feeding into the concerns over the rule of law, the EU's top court on Monday said that Poland's lowering of the retirement age for its judges beached EU law, which is a blow to its nationalist Law and Justice party-led government.

In the council of member states, EU presidencies are responsible for organising the meetings on Article 7 - but the previous Austrian and Romanian EU presidencies have been reluctant to increase the pressure on Warsaw and Budapest.

Romania's government has been dealing with its own rule of law issues, and had earned scolding from the commission. Austria's previous right-wing coalition government shied away from stepping up political pressure, as it had also received criticism for including a far-right party in its coalition.

Finland's incoming presidency says it will act differently when it takes over the EU presidency on 1 July.

"Of the many important political priorities, I wish to emphasise the principle of the rule of law, both within the union and its member states and within the rule-based community of nations," Finland's European affairs minister Tytti Tuppurainen told journalists Wednesday (26 June).

Existential question

"A small member state - such as Finland – sees the rule of law in international politics as a most important principle. Indeed, the rules-based international order is an existential question for us," Tuppurainen said.

"We need a multilateral rules-based international order in trade for our economic well-being. We need a rules-based geopolitical system for our security. It is far from self-evident that these systems are preserved," she added.

The incoming presidency hopes to have a more structured debate in the council on the rule of law that will not single out the two central European countries.

Such rule of law issues have now also become part of the negotiations of the EU's long-term budget, which the Finnish presidency will chair for the next six months.

Based on the commission's proposal, the EU could suspend cohesion funds to countries where the rule of law is breached.

The issue has become hotly contested in the council with Poland calling the planned financial penalty measure a "massive power grab".

While countries being targeted by the procedure suggest it has political motivation, the member states that pay into the budget more than they get out (so-called net payers) are growing increasingly annoyed by the possibility of EU funds propping up rule-breaking governments elsewhere in the bloc.

But Hungary and Poland have suggested they could reject the EU budget, which requires unanimity, if the so-called "conditionality" is part of it.

Other EU diplomats said net-payer countries could also veto the budget if conditionality is not part of it - a sign of tough determination on both sides.

The government of Hungary's premier Viktor Orban has been accused by the EU's anti-fraud agency Olaf, of possible irregularities related to 35 lighting projects implemented in Hungary and co-financed by the EU.

Tens of thousands of Czechs demonstrated last week in Prague to demand the resignation of prime minister Andrej Babis and his justice minister, over allegations of misuse of EU funds.

EU commission plans bolstering rule of law toolbox

As EU concerns over rule of law in some member states grow, the commission opens a debate on tools to discipline unruly member states. The EU executive has launched a new probe against Poland, and put Romania on the spot.

Poland, Hungary push back at EU budget 'conditionality'

EU affairs ministers held their first discussion on the Commission's long-term post-Brexit budget plans - with cohesion and agriculture cuts, phasing put rebates, and the overall size emerging as major divisions.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

Von der Leyen aims to 'rebalance Europe'

The German EU Commission president-elect hopes to bridge divisions within the EU, as she meets with EU leaders setting up her team of commissioners.

Crucial summit: last EU-28 format?

The EU summit will be crucial for the future of the EU, but especially for the UK. The next EU summit will not be the same since the UK's withdrawal will have consequences for the power relations within the council.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit is waste of time and energy, says Juncker
  2. Abortion and same-sex marriage become legal in Northern Ireland
  3. Germany wants internationally controlled zone in Syria
  4. EU parliament refuses to debate Catalonia
  5. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder
  6. Erdogan accuses EU of 'standing by terrorists' in Syria
  7. Migrants riot in Maltese camp
  8. Spanish PM refuses dialogue with Catalonia president

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. MPs vote on Johnson's latest push for Brexit deal
  2. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  3. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  4. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  5. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget
  6. Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls
  7. EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate
  8. Crunch Brexit vote in UK This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us