Council President Michel must not abandon the rule of law for a budget deal

Posted on Feb 18, 2020 in Allgemein
Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel und Charles Michel, Präsident des Europäischen Rates
Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel und Charles Michel, Präsident des Europäischen Rates

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, presented his position on the Multiannual Financial Framework ahead of the EU summit starting this Thursday. Also included in the package: financial sanctions for governments that attack the rule of law. However, the hurdles are now being set so high that the rule of law mechanism would probably never be applied.

The EU Commission had proposed financial sanctions against governments that attack the rule of law in 2018. Like sanctions in the Euro Stability Pact, they should take effect if the Council of Member States does not object. As part of his package, Charles Michel now proposes that a qualified majority among member states is needed for sanctions which crucially weakens the mechanism. During the Euro Stability Pact this rule has been reversed because the majority hurdle has never led to sanctions despite clear violations. It is to be expected that sanctions under the rule of law will suffer the same fate if the package is adopted by the Council in its present form.

Daniel Freund, Green/EFA Group negotiator in the European Parliament for the rule of law mechanism, comments:

It is intolerable how Council President Charles Michel is abandoning the protection of the rule of law in Europe for decimal numbers in the budget negotiations. It is now up to Chancellor Merkel to put her foot down for our fundamental values, as she did in Thuringia. The governments in Poland and Hungary benefit from European money while trampling all over European values. To agree to this proposal would be like giving Viktor Orban and others a free pass to finance their autocratic governance with EU money.

BACKGROUND: Excerpt of Charles Michel’s “nego-box”

22. A general regime of conditionality will be introduced to tackle manifest generalised deficiencies in the good governance of Member State authorities as regards respect for the rule of law when necessary to protect the sound implementation of the EU budget and the financial interest of the Union.

23. The further work on the mechanism will have to ensure that conditionality under the regime will be genuine; the aim will be to tackle instances of deficiencies which affect or risk affecting the sound implementation of the EU budget or the financial interests of the Union in a sufficiently direct way. The instances of deficiencies will be identified with clear and sufficiently precise criteria.

24. In the case of such deficiencies, the Commission will propose appropriate and proportionate measures that will have to be approved by the Council by qualified majority.

25. This regime will be separate and autonomous from the procedures provided for in the Treaties and complementary to any peer review mechanism decided for in the future.

BACKGROUND: Excerpt from Article 5 (procedure) of the Commission Proposal

Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of the Union’s budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States

6. Where the Commission considers that the generalised deficiency as regards the rule of law is established, it shall submit a proposal for an implementing act on the appropriate measures to the Council.

7. The decision shall be deemed to have been adopted by the Council, unless it decides, by qualified majority, to reject the Commission proposal within one month of its adoption by the Commission.