From judicial independence in Poland to media freedom in Hungary, violations around the rule of law have been the most contentious of EU issues.
So contentious, it risks derailing the bloc’s entire coronavirus recovery fund.
Now a damning new report from the European Parliament has branded the EU as ill-equipped and ineffective, with MEPs arguing that the existing mechanisms, simply aren’t working.
They add that a new rule of law process should be enshrined in a legally-binding document with proper enforcement measures.
Ahead of a vote on the issue Wednesday, MEPs have accused Germany of watering down plans already agreed by EU leaders.
European Council President Charles Michel is calling on both sides to compromise.
“I know that it will be difficult but I hope that we will have all the member states and MEPs to have the common political will to find a solution because it is very important for the EU future to be able to ratify as soon as possible in the national parliaments but also to get the agreement of the European Parliament,” said Charles Michel, European Council President.
Parliament’s new report comes less than a week after the European Commission painted a bleak picture about that state of democracy in southern and Eastern Europe.
“The publication of the first European Commission report on the rule of law suggests that these violations exist all across the European Union is a matter which is not only Poland and Hungary, but we have to remember that these two countries have been violating systematically the rule of law for so many years and the Commission hasn’t been able to push forward and to actually call for a vote on the suspension rights of these countries. So this is really an impasse that we face today, which is hijacking the future of the recovery fund and the entire budget,” explains Alberto Alemanno, an EU law professor at Paris business school HEC.
Hungary and Poland have slammed attempts by MEPs and member states to link EU money and issues around the rule of law as an attack on democracy itself.
Speaking to Euronews last week, Hungarian MEP, from the ruling Fidesz party Balázs Hidvéghi said: “What we have been seeing over the past few years has been that it has been misused, the whole rule of law discourse and notion. It has been misused and degraded to the level of a political weapon that the left here in the European Parliament and to an extent in the Commission – because they are influential there too – has used against countries with a right-wing government or governments like Hungary or Poland.”
For years rows about the rule of law have begun to tear at the fundamentals of the European project, that will not be settled this week
But unless a compromise is found, it could tear up the EU budget and Europe’s ability to recover from the coronavirus crisis.