It has become a routine. Every six to eight weeks, EU affairs ministers review the "rule of law". Tuesday 9 April in Luxembourg, the ministers had "An exchange of views" on the state of play of the so-called "Article 7" procedure of the EU Treaty launched on 12 September 2018 by the European Parliament against Hungary for "Clear risk of a serious breach of the values on which the Union is founded". Also on the agenda is a discussion on the latest developments concerning the rule of law in Poland.
Several infringement proceedings against Warsaw
Last step in the standoff between Brussels and Warsaw authorities on the reform of the judicial system, the Commission launched Wednesday, April 3, an infringement procedure against the Polish government for a disciplinary regime recently adopted for judges.
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Two other infringement proceedings are under way against Warsaw: one, opened in July 2017, on the reform of the ordinary courts, the other in July 2018, on the reform of the Supreme Court. In both cases, the lack of satisfactory answers from the Polish government on a reform that establishes political control over judges has led to a referral to the EU Court of Justice.
On 20 December 2017, Brussels launches "Article 7" against Poland
In December 2017, the Commission initiated the heavier "Article 7" procedure for "Clear risk of serious violation of the rule of law". This process can theoretically go as far as removing the voting rights of a country in the Council of the Union, an unlikely outcome because it would require a unanimous vote, and Budapest and Warsaw have clearly announced their intention to block any sanction.
More recently, Romania found itself also in the visor of the Commission: in early April, Vice President Frans Timmermans threatened Bucharest to use all "The means at his disposal" to challenge a reform of the judicial system that would create "De facto systemic impunity for senior officials convicted of corruption".
Make funding conditional on respect for the rule of law
Faced with the inefficiency of the existing mechanisms in the face of the rise of "illiberalism" in several Member States, the European Commission has to submit proposals in June 2019. The most spectacular, but also the most controversial, is to condition the granting of funding for the respect of the rule of law in the EU budget for the period 2021-2027. In May 2018, the Commission forwarded to Council and Parliament a proposal for a regulation for the protection of the EU budget against financial risks linked to widespread failures of the rule of law in the Member States ".
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The mechanism proposed by the Commission would allow the Union to suspend, reduce or restrict access to EU funds in a manner commensurate with the nature, severity and extent of the generalized failures of the state. by right.
Such a decision should be adopted by the Heads of State and Government in a complex procedure involving the Commission, the Parliament and the European Council. A resolution of the European Parliament of 4 April 2019 proposed a series of amendments on modalities.
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The idea, first put forward in May 2017 by Budget Commissioner Günther Öttinger, and supported by France, Germany and the Netherlands, is not without political risk and its effectiveness is questionable. In addition to the risk of a new division – Poland and Hungary having raised strong objections, followed by the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria – the threat of "touching the wallet" could prompt some Central European countries and Eastern to open more to Russian and Chinese strategic investments.