Socialists and Democrats welcomed the publication today from the European Commission of the first EU wide report on the rule of law, as an additional tool to detect deficiencies at the earliest possible stage across all EU member states. Nevertheless, we reiterate our call for an efficient tool to defend democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Europe, given that despite the article 7 procedure that was launched against Poland and Hungary, the Polish and Hungarian governments are ruthlessly continuing their anti-democratic ways.
Kati Piri, S&D vice-president said:
“The Commission’s new annual Rule of Law Report paints a depressing picture of the state of democracy and fundamental rights in Europe. The report tells the story of judges dismissed for exercising their commitment to keeping the judiciary independent; it tells the story of journalists abused and harassed attempting to report the truth and it tells the story of fraud and corruption at the highest levels of government. But this story is not new; an Article 7 procedure has been launched against governments in Poland and Hungary where we witness persistent and systemic breaches of rule of law and fundamental rights over and over.
“But let’s face it: the Article 7 procedure has so far not worked in the case of either of these two governments. Not only did it fail to bring any progress, but both governments continue putting in place policies that drastically undermine democracy. We can no longer allow Orbán and Kaczyński to continue to act with complete impunity. This is another reason why we need to fight hard for a strong and effective rule of law mechanism linked to the EU budget. The latest German proposal is insufficient.”
Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, said:
“The 2020 Rule of Law report from the Commission is a good first step in order to put forward an effective tool to stop the spread of an undemocratic disease throughout Europe. We recognise the benefits of introducing an EU-level preventative approach to help detect deficiencies of shared and common European values, to foster a constant dialogue at every level in the EU and to assess the situation of all EU member states equally. With this, Orbán & Kaczyński can no longer whine that they are being criticised unfairly. Yet, as Parliament, we have been asking for a much broader EU Mechanism for years already, which is not only focussing on rule of law, but also takes into consideration the protection of fundamental rights and the state of play of the democracy as a whole, based on a monitoring of all member states by an independent panel of experts and including a broad involvement of civil society. A yearly Commission report limited to institutional aspects will serve no purpose, especially when the reports do not lead to concrete recommendations per member state.
“For this new preventative tool to be credible in the eyes of the citizens whose fundamental rights we are trying to protect. They need to know that the EU has the courage to act if there is a systemic and persistent breach of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights. Both Poland and Hungary, despite facing Article 7 procedures for a number of years, have been ruthlessly continuing their anti-democratic ways. And the Commission report proves that the disease is spreading, with worrying developments also in other countries like Bulgaria and Slovenia. This gives yet more urgency on the need for a strong and efficient conditionality mechanism in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in member states, currently being negotiated in the framework of the ongoing debates on the new MFF.”