EU Rule of Law Dialogues: Risks – in Context

On January 16, 2020 the European Parliament passed a resolution about the state of the Article 7(1) TEU hearings with Hungary and Poland, noting with concern that “the reports and statements by the Commission and international bodies, such as the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe, indicate that the situation in both Poland and Hungary has deteriorated since the triggering of Article 7(1) of the TEU”. The resolution is a plea for a structured and more meaningful process in which each EU institution would exercise its existing powers in a meaningful and cooperative manner. The resolution emphasizes that the Article 7(1) TEU preventive process is one of risk assessment and one that may have actual – including budgetary – consequences.

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The Supranational Rule of Law: Thinking the Future

Writing at the end of 2019 it must be clear that art. 7 TEU is not a viable political option at all. However, the Treaties do contain legal mechanisms to enforce the rule of law against the member states. Art. 7 is not, and must not, be the center of the rule of law world in the EU. Poland’s refusal to obey the Court’s judgments and its readiness to do everything possible to circumvent it strike at the very heart of the EU rule of law. The challenge is to use what is legally available rather than keep finding excuses for not using the mechanisms already in place.

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The European Parliament Sidelined

When the Council adopted the first set of procedural rules governing Article 7(1) TEU hearings in July 2019, it unilaterally decided to make the Commission the proxy for the Parliament. This post will show how the Council’s differential treatment of the Commission and the Parliament as activating bodies under Article 7(1) is not compatible with EU primary law and goes against in particular the principle of institutional balance.

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From “Nuclear Option” to Damp Squib?

To date, three Article 7(1) TEU hearings have been held in respect of Poland (26 June, 18 September and 11 December 2018) and one in respect of Hungary (16 September 2019). The trouble starts with having to obtain the related documents via repeated freedom of information requests. Analysing those documents, however, reveals further significant shortcomings of the procedure.

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Dealing with a Rogue UK Prime Minister

In the current “Brexit” crisis, the EU should strive to achieve a smooth agreement-based process. This is the only way to ensure that the intricate web binding the UK to the EU is not ripped up without a reliable substitute. Boris Johnson’s priority to withdraw the UK on 31 October “do or die“ is next to impossible to reconcile with that aim. Domestically, it will be difficult to halt Johnson’s no-deal plan. But what about the EU? Indeed, there are several measures the EU could take to deal with a rogue UK Prime Minister and to make a smooth withdrawal more likely.

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Never Missing an Opportunity to Miss an Opportunity: The Council Legal Service Opinion on the Commission’s EU budget-related rule of law mechanism

Regrettably, we need to add the Council’s Legal Service to the list of key EU actors that seem intent on ignoring the existential threat to the Union posed by the spreading rule of law rot amongst EU member governments. In a (non-public) opinion on the proposed regulation of the Commission to create rule of law conditionality in the multi-annual financial framework adopted on 25 October 2018, the CLS indeed put forward multiple unpersuasive legal arguments to claim that the Commission’s proposal cannot be adopted. With this opinion, the CLS is advising the Council to actually prevent other institutions of the EU from doing their job to uphold and defend the set of common values on which the EU is based.

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Beyond the Spectacle: The European Parliament’s Article 7 TEU Decision on Hungary

Emotions were high and voices loud while and after the European Parliament adopted its decision to trigger an art. 7 TEU procedure against Hungary this week. Once the dust settles, it might be helpful and disillusioning to look at the possible consequences, the collateral damages and the side-effects of the European Parliament’s art. 7 TEU decision.

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Dusting off the Old Precedent – Why the Commission Must Stick to the Art. 7 Procedure Against Poland

Here we go again. The reports are resurfacing that the Commission is ready to back away from the Article 7 procedure that was initiated against Poland last December. Should we be surprised? For anybody who vaguely follows the Commission’s vanishing act, the answer must be a resounding „no”. Instead, the analysis that follows offers a journey back in time and argues that the past teaches us some important lessons and … rhymes.

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