There are big challenges ahead of us in a world that changes constantly and quickly. This is the reality from which the decision makers in Brussels started when drawing up the community budget for the period 2021 – 2027. They describe the budget as being pragmatic and modern, for a European Union that protects, empowers and defends.
This draft budget is an honest response to today's reality and Europe is expected to play a greater role in providing security and stability in this unstable world, at a time when Brexit will leave a sizeable gap in the EU budget, Brussels officials have said. The answer to this twin challenge consists in expenditure cuts and in identifying fresh resources. In an unprecedented move, the European Commission has proposed restrictions to the EU funds for member countries breaking the rule of law.
In this respect, the European Council President, Jean Claude Juncker has said: “The European Commission proposes to link EU budget funds to the observance of the rule of law. Adhering to the rule of law is a basic condition for viable budgeting and effective EU financing. That is why we propose a mechanism that will protect the budget from financial risks related to generalized deficiencies regarding the observance of the rule of law. This mechanism is a general rule, it does not target any member country in particular, but it’s an important part of the new European budget’s architecture.”
Despite clarifications that the mechanism is not targeting certain member states, Poland and Hungary have taken it personally and feel targeted. Warsaw’s officials said that they would not accept arbitrary mechanisms that would turn the management of funds into an instrument of political pressure ‘on demand’. The activation of Article 7 of the EU Treaty has been asked for Poland but not yet for Hungary, but the European Commission has already identified infringements of the rule of law.
Activation of Article 7 means the suspension of the right to vote for the state targeted. According to MEP Norica Nicolai, who is skeptical about the materialization of the Commission’s proposal, one cannot have such conditioning that cannot be quantified, because one risks being biased in relation to other states. She believes that a juridical opinion will be asked in this regard and even the European Court of Justice might be consulted.
Norica Nicolai: “It is just a proposal that will surely not be validated because, according to the current structure of the Lisbon Treaty, this is not possible, there is no legal support for that. Of course, I can understand the position of the EC, they are faced with a crisis and are trying to find funds to make up for the loss caused by Brexit. Of course, this and several other measures related to reductions to be operated on the cohesion policy and the common agricultural policy were not welcomed. France, for instance, has raised major objections regarding the common agricultural policy and other states such as Poland, Hungary announced they did not accept that conditioning. Therefore, it is just a proposal that will be debated in the next months. Officials in Brussels are already discussing whether the current Commission can make decisions related to the policy and actions of the future Commission”.
According to political analyst Adrian Zăbavă, this issue is related to the fact that next year will see elections at European level, including euro-parliamentary elections: “I am positive that things did not happen accidentally in the program of those in Brussels. And I am sure, given the current context, that this is going to be one of the issues for debate ahead of next year’s elections to the European Parliament, given that Brussels wants to take advantage of these elections to clarify things once and for all in relation to the infringements of the rule of law reported in some EU states.”
The Romanian President Klaus Iohannis believes that it is crucial for everyone to understand that the rule of law is not just a mere formality, but a state of mind. It basically relies on a justice system based on the recognition and the total acceptance of the supreme value of human rights, of strong institutions and of zero tolerance towards corruption, the Romanian head of state also stated. He added that Europe is at the crossroads, facing internal and external crises of an unprecedented complexity and intensity.
According to Klaus Iohannis, the history of the European construction has repeatedly revealed that our strength lies in unity, solidarity, cohesion and an ambitious and innovative vision of the future. Such principles and values lie at the foundation of the European project. Romania believes these values need to remain the foundation for its future development, to our own common benefit, President Klaus Iohannis also added, pointing out that the EU remains an indispensable project.