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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Catalonia in deadlock, and why that is a European problem

The Catalan territorial conflict is stuck. No clear solutions are on the table after the elections of December 21st. Catalans and Spaniards are failing so far to find solutions to the problem. But it is our European common problem and our common responsibility to try to help them. More specifically, EU institutions should be doing much more of what they have done so far. I blame them for their passivity in the last couple of months.

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The European Commission’s Activation of Article 7: Better Late than Never?

On Wednesday, the European Commission reacted to the continuing deterioration of the rule of law situation in Poland. The remaining question, of course, is why this argument has been used in the context of 7(1) as opposed of 7(2) given that the situation on the ground in Poland is clearly – in the view of the Commission, the Venice Commission and countless other actors – one of clear and persistent breach of values, as opposed to a threat thereof. The explanation might lie beyond the simple difficulty of the procedural requirements related to the sanctioning stage.

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Poland and the European Commission, Part II: Hearing the Siren Song of the Rule of Law

As Poland has careened away from the rule of law, the European Commission has struggled to work out its response. Given Europe’s multiple crises at the moment, the internal affairs of a rogue government or two may seem less critical to Europe’s well being than crises that affect multiple states at the same time, like the refugee crisis, the Euro-crisis or the fallout from Brexit. But the proliferation of governments inside the EU that no longer share basic European values undermines the reason for existence of the EU in the first place.

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Poland and the European Commission, Part I: A Dialogue of the Deaf?

On 21 December 2016, the European Commission adopted an additional Recommendation regarding the rule of law in Poland. Rather than starting the Article 7 sanctioning process, the Commission merely reiterated its old demands, added some new concerns and again held out the threat of Article 7 while apparently moving no closer to actually starting a sanctioning process. It is not that the Commission was unaware of what was happening in Poland. In December, the Commission stood by and watched the Polish government capture the Constitutional Tribunal. The new Recommendation indicates that the Commission simply chose not to act to head off the final stages of the Tribunal’s demise.

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Systemic Threat to the Rule of Law in Poland: What should the Commission do next?

Considering the overwhelming evidence of a deliberate governmental strategy of systematically undermining all checks and balances in Poland as well the uncooperative behaviour of Polish authorities, the Commission has been left with no other choice but to trigger the Article 7 mechanism. Even if there is no realistic chance of seeing the Council adopting sanctions against Poland, this step would finally oblige national governments, meeting in the Council, to face up to their own responsibilities.

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