EUROPEAN UNION – New EU policy approved linking the use of European Union funds and respect for the rule of law and democratic principles by Member States

On 5 November 2020, Petri Sarvamaa from Finland and Eider Gardiazabal Rubial from Spain reported that the European Union has secured a link between the use of EU funds and the respect of the rule of law and democratic principles by the Member States. The new policy covers both one breach of the rule of law and systematic or recurrent breaches. A full and clear list of breaches has been agreed in the context of all the values enshrined in the EU treaties, including fundamental rights, as well as in the criteria for accession of any new country to the EU. The articles cover what actions are considered to endanger the independence of the judiciary and failing to correct arbitrary decisions by the authorities, thereby limiting legal remedies. Both the Council and the Parliament support this.

Any reports of breaches of this principle will be studied by the European Commission who will then report to the European Council, who will be required to make a ruling within a specified time period, based on a qualified majority vote. Vetoes by any one country will not be allowed. Another aim was to make sure that the final beneficiaries of funding, who depend on EU support, such as students, farmers, NGOs, researchers, universities, are not going to be punished for the misbehaviour of their governments and can go directly to the Commission for consideration of the reasons for non-payment.

The latest Eurobarometer, which published surveys of public opinion in EU countries, found in an October 2020 survey that 77% of Europeans support the EU providing funds only to member states that respect the rule of law and democratic principles.

Hungary and Poland are opposed to this policy and are currently most threatened by it. Both have rejected this new policy and said they would not support the new EU budget if the two policies are linked. They have long been the target of rule of law hearings over the stances they have taken on migration, multiculturalism, the lack of independence of the judiciary (which many people say includes the Tribunal who made the most recent abortion decision in Poland), as well as their support for so-called “traditional” (that is, anti-human rights) values.

SOURCE: Press conference, 5 November 2020, report by Petri Sarvamaa (EPP, Finland) and Eider Gardiazabal Rubial (S&D, Spain), co-Rapporteurs. INFOGRAPHIC