Could there be a Rule of Law Problem at the EU Court of Justice?

The Member States’ current plan of replacing the sitting U.K. Advocate General at the Court of Justice Eleanor Sharpston before the end of her six-year term raises a serious question whether doing so may violate the European Treaties. If yes, this would be a troubling intrusion on the independence of the Court and the constitutional structure of the Union – just when the EU should be setting an example for the Member States (both current and former).

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Kolevi: Bulgaria’s 10-Year Cat-and-Mouse Game with the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission

A cat-and-mouse game perfectly describes Bulgaria’s stubborn refusal to comply with Kolevi v Bulgaria, which requires a reform of Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office, and it has been going on for a decade. The latest trick pulled out of the bag is quite original – Bulgaria’s government essentially asked Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court to clarify if some of the concerns raised by the Venice Commission were reasonable, and this court deemed the question admissible.

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The Struggle of Strasbourg

This year’s Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) saw three distinct yet interrelated developments. On Tuesday, the Assembly decided to open a monitoring procedure with regard to Poland on behalf of the ongoing rule of law backsliding. On Wednesday, the Assembly decided to ratify the credentials of the Russian delegates which had previously been challenged both on procedural and on substantive grounds. Still on Wednesday, the Assembly backed the proposal for the introduction of a new ‘complementary joint procedure’, together with the Committee of Ministers, in response to violations of fundamental principles underlying the work of the organisation.

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Is it worth being a Rejtan?

The Rejtan’s true gesture – to disagree if something is not consistent with my fundamental beliefs, is it just an act of useless despair? Today I think about it differently. Expressing one’s opinion, thoughts, views, even if it does not bring directly any tangible, immediately visible result, it goes far beyond pure symbolism and translates into reality. I have tried to keep this in mind also in my public activity as a judge.

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The Hungarian “Lex NGO” before the CJEU: Calling an Abuse of State Power by its Name

On 14 January 2020, Advocate General Campos Sánchez-Bordona delivered his Opinion in Case C-78/18 on the restrictions incorporated into a 2017 Hungarian law on the financing of NGOs from abroad. He makes clear that Hungary’s “Lex NGO” not only restricts the free movement of capital but also violates several fundamental rights, and is therefore incompatible with EU law.

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1460 Days Later: Rule of Law in Poland R.I.P. (Part II)

Writing a year ago, we warned that the situation in Poland “has deteriorated further to the point of threatening the functioning of the whole EU legal order and therefore, the future of the EU’s internal market itself.” This is no longer a mere threat but a clear and present danger. Stalling for time would be irresponsible. On current trajectory, it is only a matter of time before Poland’s rule of law default eventually triggers a knock-on process of legal disintegration.

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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 Supranational Rule of Law: Taking Stock

While a transnational conception of the rule of law requires the engagement of and commitment to the EU project from all actors involved, this begs the question as to what happens when the assumptions underlying art. 2 TEU are no longer applicable? For the rule of law, 2019 has been of fundamental importance because we have been taught important constitutional lessons and started getting answers to some of the most crucial constitutional questions. While much still remains shrouded in mystery and question marks are aplenty, at least the judicial trajectory for the rule of law in 2020 has been set in 2019.

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