Brussels Seeking to Boost the Rule of EU Law

Written by | Thursday, March 13th, 2014

The European Commission said on Tuesday (March 11) that it would be implementing a new measure that will allow the European Union to intervene anytime it spots a “serious and systematic threat” to the integrity of EU rule of law coming from its member states. The proposed legal measure will however exclude isolated breaches of the EU law or breaches of fundamental rights. Jose Manual Barosso, EU Commission President, said at a press conference in Strasbourg that the Brussels executive had been recently confronted by a number of cases from EU members which were a possible threat. Many institutions have therefore turned to the EU Commission to solve this issue.
The new measure is said to fill the void between a standard infringement procedure and the “nuclear option” or Article 7 which withdraws voting rights of a member state at EU level. Article 7 has been labeled as problematic to use in practice and there were discussions to invoke it in 2000. More recently, there has also been an informal discussion about whether to use the article against the Hungarian government which has introduced controversial laws on press freedom and media. The EU justice commissioner added that the new system was indispensable because the existing system had worked mostly on an ad-hoc basis. An institutionalized system is therefore highly desirable.
The proposed idea of the new system is a three-step procedure. The first step involves the assessment of the problem by the EU Commission. If a problem is found, then the commission warns the particular member state in a “rule of law option”. If there is no progress towards a solution to the problem, then the commission will issue a “rule of law recommendation” which specifies what has to be accomplished and by when. A follow-up recommendation is then eventually provided in the third step. Commissioner Reding said that the new mechanism was hoped to safeguard the rule of law and its applicability under the same threshold of a serious threat to the rule of law to any of the EU28.

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