The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament today voted to see an end to governments breaching the rule of law while EU citizens suffer the consequences.
The European Parliament’s position on creating an effective EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights is supported by a wide majority of MEPs, and includes a direct link between the respect of the rule of law and the distribution of EU funds. At the initiative of the S&D Group, MEPs are also calling for the scope of the mechanism to include the values set out in Article 2 of the Treaties including respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, and respect for human rights, including minority rights.
Katarina Barley, vice-president of the European Parliament and S&D shadow rapporteur said:
“The European Commission’s annual rule of law report paints a grim picture in a number of EU countries where abuses of power are on the rise and restrictions are tightening on the fundamental freedoms that a make democracy. The case for an effective mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights is stronger than ever.
“For the EU to be credible and defend its values, we need an effective tool that has real teeth with financial consequences in case of fundamental rights violations and that ensures EU funding reaches the citizens. Otherwise, we risk people losing faith in the EU. We cannot sit idly by while illiberal governments breach the rule of law and EU citizens have to suffer the consequences.
“With an overwhelming majority, the European Parliament’s position is clear: we represent the voice of EU citizens and we need effective tools in place to defend their rights. We will work with the Council on establishing a mechanism but our values are not up for negotiation.”
Birgit Sippel, spokesperson on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, said:
“If we do not act now to protect democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law, this could be a moment that we will live to regret for a long time. Last week, the European Commission's annual rule of law report set out in black and white what the current risks are across the EU, and yet we still lack effective instruments either to prevent governments from breaching the rule of law or to punish autocratic leaders when they flout the rules.
“We need less talk and more action. Instead of just repeating over and over that we will safeguard fundamental rights, we need to show people how we can and will protect their rights. We need to stop promising to defend the rule of law, and instead prove that we can and will preserve the rule of law. That is why we have pushed for a new EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights, with an independent panel of experts to monitor what is going on in all member states, with financial conditionality of EU funds and with a direct link of the Article 7 procedure with crucial EU values like equality and pluralism.”