26 October 2016
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European Parliament: MEPs call for EU democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights watchdog (Press release, pdf):
"To end the current “crisis-driven” approach to perceived breaches of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in EU member states, the EU Commission should set up a binding EU mechanism to monitor and report annually on their records in these fields, say MEPs in a resolution passed on Tuesday. This mechanism should include objective benchmarks and lay down a gradual approach to remedying breaches, they add.
“We have provided the European Union with the instruments to enforce all the other policy areas - competition policies, police and justice cooperation, foreign policies (...), but our core values are not protected by instruments that are sufficiently strong to make sure that the values are upheld throughout the European Union”, said lead MEP Sophie in’t Veld (ALDE, NL), in the debate ahead of the vote. Her legislative initiative was passed by 405 votes to 171, with 39 abstentions."
See Resolution: Full-text: 25-10-16 (pdf)
Comment: There are currently two so-called "rule of law" mechanisms. One for the Commission with a "structured dialogue" and then non-binding opinions and Recommendations. The Council simply has an annual report. Neither the Council or the Commission are committed to using the powers set out in the Lisbon Treaty. This says that if any Member State offends against fundamental principles in:
The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail."
then the procedure under Article 7 comes into effect and can suspend a Member State from taking part in the Council's proceedings:
"1. On a reasoned proposal by one third of the Member States, by the European Parliament or by the European Commission, the Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2. Before making such a determination, the Council shall hear the Member State in question and may address recommendations to it, acting in accordance with the same procedure.... " For more see link and page 21: Lisbon Treaty (pdf)
In the past the Council failed to act against France, Italy and Hungary over their treatment on Roma and currently Poland and Hungary (to name but a few) cannot be effectively called to account.
See also: An EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights European Added Value Assessment accompanying the legislative initiative report (Rapporteur: Sophie in 't Veld) (pdf).
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