The European Parliament has adopted the EC draft regulation under which the member states risk losing European funds if they jeopardize the rule of law
The European Parliament has endorsed, by a large majority, the regulation drafted by the European Commission, under which an EU member state risks suspension of EU funds if its authorities jeopardize the rule of law. Such a measure had been called for against the extremist actions of the liberal and conservative governments in Hungary and Poland respectively.
The cabinet and the leftist majority in Bucharest have too been targeted by harsh criticism from the European institutions and most MEPs, who believe that some of the changes to the justice laws, the way in which the heads of the main prosecutor’s offices are changed and the disproportionate intervention of the gendarmes during the anti-Government protest in August are violations of the rule of law. The regulation will apply to all the member states.
Assisted by a panel of independent experts, the EU Commission would be tasked with establishing “generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law” and decide on measures that could include suspending EU budget payments or reducing pre-financing. The decision would only be implemented once approved by Parliament and Council. Once the member state remedies the deficits identified by the EU Commission, Parliament and EU ministers could unlock the funds. Unless the decision states otherwise, the government in question would still have to implement the respective EU programme or fund and make payments to final beneficiaries.
The Romanian MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu, member of the EPP group, has voted the draft, but believes it should be improved: “It is hard to vote something that might affect your country. At the same time, though, one must observe all the rules and, when there are deficiencies as regards the rule of law, the budget may obviously be affected, too. That is why I think that such a law should exist, but it needs improving, because as it is today, it contains elements that would have to be adjusted. Just like everywhere, there must be a balance between action and the related penalty.
The MEP Norica Nicolai, member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, has opposed the proposal and has explained why: “Most of the new member states, but not only, also Spain, Portugal and Italy, fear that, because of the governments they have, might be subject to an abusive formula applied by the Commission with regard to funding. It is unacceptable to have a law that does not stipulate any objective assessment criteria and to let some officers from the European Commission analyses cases of rule of law violation, when there is no definition and no criteria”.
Until adoption, the regulation will have to go through many stages and then unanimously adopted by the heads of state and government. The proposal is covered by the 2021-2027 budget framework.