MEPs step up pressure on Commission to take action on rule of law violations
Hungary and Poland are two member states that have consistently found themselves at odds with the EU over alleged rule of law violations in various areas, including the judiciary and press freedom violations.
But MEPs also want similar action taken against the Czech government for its alleged failure to resolve a conflict of interest surrounding its prime minister.
If the clause were triggered, it would lead to the imposition of various sanctions, including the suspension of voting rights and possibly the suspension of EU funding.
The Renew Europe group went further and offered to take legal action against the Commission itself for ‘failing’ to activate the conditionality clause so far.
He tabled a parliamentary resolution, which will be voted on by MEPs at their plenary session in Strasbourg next week, calling for legal action.
Renew Europe is confident that a sufficient number of MEPs will support its request.
A spokesperson said: “Renew Europe is ready to build a majority in Parliament for a resolution to take the Commission to court and we call on other political groups to join us. “
Renew Europe says it is “fed up with constant delaying tactics and buying time,” adding that the rule of law conditionality mechanism has been in effect since January 1 and “needs to be implemented quickly.”
“The situation in a number of member states needs to be examined and action taken without delay,” the group said.
Next week’s vote comes just ahead of the June 22 General Affairs Council meeting to discuss the current situation in Hungary and Poland.
“The Commission is not the only ‘guardian of the Treaties’ and where there are serious threats to European values, Parliament can and must act. More than ever, the Council must urgently assume its responsibility to protect the rule of law and to take action against Hungary ” Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Verts / ALE
Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș said: “We fought tooth and nail to establish the rule of law conditionality mechanism, which creates a link between respect for the rule of law and funding from the EU.
“Parliament gave the Commission the deadline of 1 June to apply the regulation which has been applicable since 1 January. Now that the deadline has not been met, our group intends to push for the triggering of Article 265 of the Treaties in order to prosecute the Commission for its inaction.
The Romanian MEP added: “The credibility of the EU is at stake. We are committed to the European citizens who now expect us to be consistent. It is urgent to take action.
Her colleague Katalin Cseh, co-rapporteur of the resolution, said: “Renew Europe will not back down until the mechanism has been properly implemented. By delaying its implementation, the Commission is playing into the hands of autocrats like Viktor Orbán who wish to use our historic Stimulus Fund for its own financial gains, supporting the oligarchs and their family members ahead of the 2022 elections. “
She added: “Waiting for the adoption of the guidelines before June 1 was already a generous compromise on the part of Parliament, but even this extended deadline has passed. Therefore, we must hold the Commission accountable for inaction before the European Court of Justice. We have said it loud and clear, and we will say it again: the age of procrastination is over.
MEPs from other groups also criticize the Commission, with French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Parliament’s rapporteur for the situation in Hungary, saying: “The Commission is not the only ‘guardian of the treaties’ and when there is has serious threats to European values, Parliament can and must act.
“More than ever, the Council must urgently assume its responsibility to protect the rule of law and to take action against Hungary.
She continued: “The rule of law in Hungary is deteriorating day by day. The Fidesz government’s deliberate strategy to dismantle democracy and undermine fundamental rights affects all citizens and has started to spread to other EU member states. Hungarian and European citizens deserve to know that their rights will be supported and protected by all EU institutions.
Moreover, the Commission has been called on to take action against the Czech government after a recent audit revealed that there had been a conflict of interest involving its Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš.
“We fought tooth and nail to establish the rule of law conditionality mechanism, which creates a link between respect for the rule of law and obtaining European funding… Now that the deadline has passed. not respected, our group intends to push for the triggering of article 265 of the treaties in order to take legal action against the Commission for inaction ”
Dacian Cioloș, leader of Renew Europe
In a draft resolution adopted on Wednesday by 26 votes in favor and none against, the Committee on Budgetary Control called on the Commission to address a conflict of interest alongside reports of Babiš’s influence over the Czech media and the judiciary .
MEPs said they wanted any alleged rule of law violation to be investigated and, if confirmed, the conditionality clause activated.
In a report, MEPs underlined the Czech government’s “lack of initiative” in dealing with the conflict of interest situation and the Czech government’s attempts to legalize Babiš’s conflict of interest.
MEPs also expressed concern over political pressure on the independent Czech media as well as the resignation of the Attorney General, who cited pressure from the Minister of Justice as the reason for his resignation.
MEPs consider it “unacceptable” that Babiš continues to participate in Council negotiations on the EU budget and programs, including negotiations on the common agricultural policy, while continuing to receive agricultural payments from the EU. ‘EU via the companies of the Agrofert group.
German EPP member Monika Hohlmeier said: “It is unacceptable to see how oligarchic structures have developed, consolidated and enriched thanks to Czech European and national funding.
“MEPs cannot, and Member States must not allow people with a clear conflict of interest to decide on the programming and distribution of common agricultural and cohesion funds.
“Billionaires should no longer be able to receive hundreds of millions of EU grants.”