Commissioner Reynders Press speaking points - 2020 Rule of Law Report - Parlementaire monitor

Parlementaire monitor
Vrijdag 4 december 2020
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Commissioner Reynders Press speaking points - 2020 Rule of Law Report

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC) i, gepubliceerd op woensdag 30 september 2020.
  • Bonjour à tous.
  • Aujourd'hui, c'est une journée importante pour la protection de l'état de droit dans l'Union européenne.
  • La publication de ce premier rapport annuel marque un moment charnière car c'est la première fois que nous présentons une cartographie de la situation de l'état de droit dans chacun des états membres.
  • Les informations qui s'y trouvent ne sont pas nouvelles.
  • Elles sont dans le domaine public.
  • Le mérite de ce rapport est de les avoir collectées et de nous donner une vue d'ensemble de la situation de l'état de droit dans l'Union.
  • Ce rapport représente à mes yeux une source importante d'informations.
  • Elle seront utiles pour les discussions à venir, tant au niveau européen, national et local.
  • Ce rapport nous permet d'entamer une nouvelle étape dans la protection de l'état de droit et la promotion de la culture de l'état de droit au sein de l'Union européenne.
  • J'ai toujours soutenu que l'état de droit devait être examiné de manière exhaustive et continue.
  • C'est une ambition que je portais déjà dans mes fonctions précédentes.
  • J'ai toujours été de ceux qui pensaient qu'il ne fallait pas se limiter à examiner seulement certains États membres, mais tous les États membres sur un pied d'égalité en utilisant une méthodologie commune et objective.
  • Si l'état de droit n'est pas respecté dans l'Union, comment pouvons-nous être crédibles lorsque nous évoquons nos valeurs avec les pays candidats ou avec nos partenaires internationaux ?
  • Si l'état de droit est en danger, c'est tout l'édifice communautaire qui est en péril.
  • La question de l'état de droit concerne l'Union dans son ensemble.
  • Car ce qui se passe dans un État membre a incidence sur tous les autres États membres. Et on le voit de plus en plus dans un certain nombre de dossiers concrets.
  • Avec ce rapport, nous voulons aborder les problèmes à un stade précoce. C'est l'objectif de cet outil qui vient s'ajouter aux autres moyens dans nous disposons déjà, pour assurer le respect de l'état de droit.

[What is the Rule of Law Mechanism?]

  • Today we are establishing the comprehensive European Rule of Law Mechanism. The heart of this new Mechanism is the Commission's rule of law report adopted by the College today. Our report covers both positive and negative developments in the Union, including a country-specific assessment of all 27 Member States.
  • I would like to stress that this report makes a clear difference between punctual concerns that we may have in some Member States and the systemic issues.
  • The European Rule of Law Mechanism, with the Rule of Law Report at its centre, will serve to deepen dialogue and joint awareness of the rule of law throughout the European Union.
  • The Mechanism is a yearly process during which we aim to prevent problems from emerging or deepening,
  • by having open debates
  • and by exchanging best practices.

[How the report was established]

  • To set up the Mechanism, in January I wrote to all the EU ministers to establish a network of national rule of law contact points in every Member State.
  • This was instrumental not only as a constant channel of communication with Member States but also to discuss the methodology of our report.
  • On this basis, all 27 Member States provided written input.
  • We also carried out a targeted stakeholder consultation, where over 200 stakeholders provided written input.
  • This included EU agencies, national and European civil society organisations, and professional associations.
  • And we conducted more than 300 virtual country visits.
  • During these visits, we discussed rule of law developments with Member States' national authorities;
  • With judicial and independent authorities,
  • and again with relevant stakeholders, such as journalists' associations.
  • Last but not least, every Member State had the opportunity to check its draft country chapters for factual accuracy.
  • All Member States have been closely involved, have actively participated in the process. They were all treated equally.
  • We applied the same methodology to all and constantly ensured consistency.
  • We made sure that this process was robust, transparent and as inclusive as possible.
  • But let me also be clear that this report represents the Commission's own assessment.

[Key findings]

  • This takes me to the Report itself.
  • We looked at four key areas:
    • The independence, quality and efficiency of justice systems;
    • The anti-corruption framework ;
    • Media pluralism and media freedom ;
    • And other institutional checks and balances.
  • On the independence, quality and efficiency of justice systems:
    • I appreciate that in a number of Member States efforts are under way to strengthen judicial independence and reduce the influence of the executive or legislative power over the judiciary. For instance, the setting up or strengthening of independent national councils for the judiciary is a good example of how some Member States have been making concrete efforts.
    • But it is also true that judicial independence remains an issue of concern in certain Member States.
    • For example, we identified issues related to the capacity of councils for the judiciary to exercise their functions;
    • We have also more structural concerns over an increasing influence of the executive and legislative branch over the functioning of the justice systems, including constitutional courts and supreme courts.
    • In terms of quality of justice, the current pandemic has highlighted the importance of digitalising justice systems. Many initiatives are ongoing in Member States to deliver real improvements for the users of justice systems. Some justice systems are already equipped with the technology to operate remotely, to carry on communicating with lawyers and other court users. These are good practices to share.
  • Anti-corruption - another area where divergences exist.
    • I appreciate that several Member States have adopted comprehensive new anti-corruption strategies or revised existing ones.
    • What will, however, be key, is that these strategies are effectively implemented and monitored, to ensure that progress is made on the ground.
    • In some Member States, measures haven been introduced to strengthen institutional capacity to fight corruption and to reduce obstacles to effective prosecution.
    • But it is also true that our monitoring shows concerns in several Member States about the effectiveness of the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of corruption cases. This includes concerns that high-level corruption cases are not systematically pursued.
  • Thirdly, on media pluralism and media freedom.
    • First things first, the independence and competence of media authorities is enshrined in law in every single Member State.
    • That being said, there are red flags in some member states:
      • With regards to the political influence on the media;
      • A lack of transparency when it comes to who owns media;
      • A lack of pluralism in the media landscape;
      • And risks to journalists and other media actors when doing their work.
    • The fourth and final area of our report are: institutional issues linked to checks and balances:
      • On the positive side, there is a healthy debate on strengthening legal and constitutional safeguards in some Member States.
      • In a number of Member States, reform processes are under way. In particular, they concern the opening up of new channels for citizens to challenge the exercise of executive and legislative power. The advice of international expert bodies, such as the Venice Commission, can support these processes.
      • The COVID-19 pandemic also provided some good examples of well-functioning checks and balances. Parliamentary scrutiny helped frame emergency responses. The measures taken were often reviewed by the courts.
      • However, we also identified a number of rule of law related concerns in this area. In a few Member States we see repeated recourse to expedited legislation in parliament or emergency ordinances from the government.
      • Moreover, in some Member States civil society lacks an enabling framework, faces a diminishing space to operate, legislation that limits access to foreign funding or smear campaigns, to name but a few examples.

[Next steps and ending]

  • Where do we go from here?
  • The comprehensive European Rule of Law Mechanism is more than the report itself.
  • What we want to achieve through this report is a true dialogue at EU and at national level: with the European Parliament, the Council, national parliaments as well as European and national stakeholders. This dialogue is a key of the Mechanism.
  • We want to promote a rule of law culture across the European Union.
  • As you may know, the German Presidency intends to have a rule of law dialogue in the Council based on our report.
  • There will be two discussions in the General Affairs Council:
    • a horizontal discussion covering general rule of law developments in October;
    • and country-specific discussions addressing key developments in specific Member States in November - 5 Member States.
  • Nous présenterons le rapport aussi au Parlement européen qui doit être entièrement impliqué dans ce travail.
  • Nous devons également faire avancer le débat au niveau national. J'aimerais inviter les parlements nationaux, les stakeholders et la société civile à discuter des conclusions du rapport.
  • Pour soutenir ce processus, j'ai l'intention de me rendre dans un certain nombre de parlements nationaux pour discuter de ce u rapport.

[Conclusion]

  • Le mécanisme de l'État de droit ne s'arrête pas à la publication du rapport aujourd'hui.
  • Tous - femmes et hommes politiques, universitaires, experts, organisations de la société civile, journalistes et tous les citoyens de l'Union - peuvent y prendre part.
  • C'est notre mission à tous de le rendre vivant pour qu'il devienne un des fondements de la protection de l'état de droit dans l'Union.