Vice-President Jourová Press speaking points - 2020 Rule of Law Report - Parlementaire monitor

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Vrijdag 4 december 2020
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Vice-President Jourová Press speaking points - 2020 Rule of Law Report

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC) i, gepubliceerd op woensdag 30 september 2020.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • Democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights are the foundations on which everything else is based in our Union: our rights, the freedom of the press or the independence of the judiciary.
  • The history of democracy is a permanent search of the right balance that is limiting the powers of the powerful. It is a search for the right system of checks and balances, so that citizens have their rights protected and can exercise their sovereign power as freely as possible.
  • This is why today, we have a pleasure to present to you the first annual Rule of Law report that covers all EU Member States.
  • This is pioneering work and has never been done in such a comprehensive way.
  • And this is a preventive mechanism. And it fills an important gap in this respect.
  • There are three main aims of this preventative mechanism:
  • To identify potential rule of law problems at an early stage;
  • To do this based on dialogue with each Member State;
  • And overall, to strengthen the rule of law culture across Europe.
  • This the first time that the Commission is taking a wider look at rule of law issues across the Union..
  • The report covers four main pillars:
    • justice systems
    • anti-corruption frameworks
    • institutional issues related to checks and balances
    • and media freedom and pluralism.
  • Why? Because it is relevant to have an overview of these issues, and see the links between them. Not least because deficiencies often merge into an undrinkable cocktail, even if the individual ingredients seem to be fine.
  • I sometimes hear that rule of law does not have a concrete definition at the European level. The report also clearly addresses this pointing to the Article 2 of the Treaty, to the rulings of the Court of Justice, the Council of Europe or the European Court of Human rights. The definition that emerges from this is actually quite comprehensive and I believe very logical. It includes the principle of constraints of public powers set by law, independent and impartial courts, legal certainty, separation of powers, equality before the law and much more.
  • This is all true.
  • But what is also true, is that when the rule of law is absent, when it is at risk, there is a concrete impact on every single one of our lives. I know this first-hand because I myself grew up in an authoritarian regime without the rule of law. This means that equality before the law was an illusion. There were people more equal than others. The politically appointed judges didn't serve justice.

The media broadcasted propaganda in the service of the ruling party and we had to listen to radio Free Europe to search for a different perspective.

  • The European Union was created also as an antidote to those authoritarian tendencies.
  • When it comes to breaches to the rule of law, the European Commission has a clear role to play as guardian of the Treaty. And this is why we will also in the future not shy away from launching infringements and continuing the discussion under Art. 7. And this is why we also need the MFF conditionality to deal with rule of law abuses against the financial interests of the EU.
  • But next to this set of “response” measures it is high time to also have a tool to detect rule of law issues early on and to “prevent” them from happening.
  • The report we are presenting today is a new tool which is going to help us to do so.
  • The report is objective and covers both positive and negative elements and should serve as a bases for dialogue with Member states
  • The Report was developed in an inclusive process and in close cooperation with the Member States, and Didier will elaborate more on this. We treat Member States in the same way, the reports are following a coherent structure.
  • We want to engage in a dialogue not only with the Member States, but also with the European Parliament and national Parliaments as well as other stakeholders.
  • But I also want to stress - dialogue must be based on facts and good will, including the ability to discuss also difficult issues.
  • It's not an easy task. But it is a needed task.
  • Let me just conclude with a quote of Václav Havel that seems very timely to me: “The natural disadvantage of democracy is that it is extremely tiring to those who mean it honestly, while it allows almost everything to those who do not take it seriously.” And if I may add something today, or ‘to those who want to abuse it'.