7 October 2020

European Parliament pushes for stronger protection of democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights

After the European Commission published last week its long awaited Rule of law report, today the European Parliament has become the second European institution to directly express an urgent need for stronger mechanism against the erosion of the fundamental European values enshrined in Art. 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

The European Parliament has asked since 2016 for a permanent mechanism to protect democracy and the rule of law. The house has insisted since 2018 that such a new tool should be linked to protecting the European Union’s budget when a member state consistently fails to respect the rule of law.

Today the European Parliament adopted a resolution that asks for the establishment of an EU mechanism to protect and strengthen democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the form of interinstitutional agreement. This should include all preventive and corrective aspects revolving around country-specific recommendations, with timelines and targets linked to concrete measures, including Article 7 procedures, infringement proceedings, and budgetary conditionality (once in force).

The resolution, prepared by MEP Michal Šimečka (Renew, Slovakia), aims to go beyond the scope of the European Commission Rule of law report, which currently covers only four thematic issues: justice systems, anticorruption frameworks, media freedom and independence and other checks and balances. The mechanism suggested by the European Parliament should cover all the values in Art.2 of the TEU and presents country specific recommendations based on the European Semester as a useful existing resource to draw upon.

The PA Secretariat together with the wider civil society held discussions with the rapporteur Šimečka in the preparatory period of the report and welcomes the fact that the report has several references to civil society input in the resolution, namely mentioning that civil society is essential for any democracy to thrive; whereas the shrinking space for civil society contributes to violations of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights. Any monitoring mechanism must closely involve stakeholders active in the protection and promotion of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, including civil society.