The European Union is based on the tripod of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, said the EU’s first vice president, Frans Timmermans, in this moving video.
“And through European history we know that if we abandon one of the legs of the tripod, the whole tripod will topple.”
This is a lesson for current EU members Hungary and Poland. (It’s also a lesson for former EU member, Britain, because ‘rule of law’ is something that our current government appears not to respect.)
As a statement by the European Parliament makes clear:
‘Rule of law is laid down in the EU treaties as one of the values on which the Union is based.
‘It means that governments should be bound by law, that they should not take arbitrary decisions and that citizens should be able to challenge their actions in independent courts.
It also enshrines the fight against corruption, which unfairly favours some to the detriment of others, and the safeguarding of media freedom, thus ensuring that the public is properly informed about the work of government.’
This directly relates to Hungary and Poland that has in recent times been violating EU law. The European Commission has at its disposal the power to impose financial sanctions on EU member states that do that. Yesterday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) – the highest court in the EU – confirmed that such action was lawful and rejected a challenge by Hungary and Poland against sanctions being imposed.
It’s reported that Hungary and Poland could lose funding worth more than €100 billion for failing to abide by the EU’s core values.
The European Parliament is calling on the Commission to act without delay following the ECJ’s ruling. In a press statement issued by the Parliament, Spanish MEP Eider Gardiazabal said:
“This ruling is a turning point and represents support for a European project based on shared values.
“It is a clear message to authoritarian governments that, in the EU, the rules of the game must be respected.”
EU core values include,
“respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”
Those are the non-negotiable values that all applicant countries must sign up to before becoming a member of the EU.
It seems there will now be a showdown between the EU and new member states that joined agreeing to the EU’s core values and laws, but are now breaking those laws whilst still taking EU funding.
The future of the EU depends on the bloc winning this showdown. Otherwise, what’s the point of the EU?
My report on the ECJ’s judegment:
𝗘𝗨 𝗧𝗢𝗣 𝗖𝗢𝗨𝗥𝗧 𝗗𝗜𝗦𝗠𝗜𝗦𝗦𝗘𝗦 𝗖𝗛𝗔𝗟𝗟𝗘𝗡𝗚𝗘 𝗕𝗬 𝗛𝗨𝗡𝗚𝗔𝗥𝗬 𝗔𝗡𝗗 𝗣𝗢𝗟𝗔𝗡𝗗
Funds can be cut for EU members that flout democratic standards.
The EU’s top court ruled today that the bloc’s funds can be cut for member states that flout democratic standards.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ)rejected actions brought by Hungary and Poland against EU funding being withheld to sanction them for breaking EU laws.
“The court dismisses the actions brought by Hungary and Poland in their entirety,” the ECJ said.The judges said that “compliance by the member states with the common values on which the European Union is founded… such as the rule of law and solidarity, justifies the mutual trust between those states.”
The [European] Union budget is one of the principal instruments for giving practical effect, in the European Union’s policies and activities, to the fundamental principle of solidarity between member states.”ECJ
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, welcomed the decision and said in a statement that it vindicated the actions taken by the Commission.
“Today’s judgments confirm that we are on the right track,” she said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that, as the foundation stone of the EU, rule-of-law needed protection.
“Violations not only cost our credibility, but our cohesion,” said Ms Baerbock. “Today’s ECJ judgment confirms another important tool for the EU to protect and strengthen our community of values.”
Poland and Hungary had appealed to the Court against sanctions proposed by the Commission to withhold EU funding for member states that break the EU’s rule-of-law.
Both countries are major recipients of EU funds. The European Commission introduced the measures after accusations that the governments of Hungary and Poland were undermining standards, such as judicial independence.
The European Parliament – which democratically approves the EU’s budget – had urged the Commission to cut the funds immediately, but the Commission said it would wait for today’s ruling before activating the procedure.
Both Poland and Hungary strongly criticised the ruling today.
Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga dismissed the ruling as a “political judgment” and proof that the EU was abusing its power.
Polish Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta tweeted that there was a need for “unity against the attack on our sovereignty.”
“Poland must defend its democracy against blackmail aimed at taking away our right to self-determination.”
The bottom line? In the EU, the rule of law and democracy come first.
That’s unlike post-Brexit Britain, where the government can regularly flout the law and get away with it.
Press release by the European Court of Justice: https://curia.europa.eu/…/pdf/2022-02/cp220028en.pdf