The S&D Group welcomes the latest annual assessment on the rule of law in the EU but expresses concerns that the report will fail to improve the situation in the Member States without clear and specific recommendations to EU governments.
Domènec Ruiz Devesa, S&D MEP who led the Parliament’s work on assessing the 2020 report, said:
“The annual report is a useful tool to monitor and assess the state of the rule of law in all Member States and on similar grounds. However, it clearly lacks the concrete follow-up with a timeline to remedy problems. Without specific recommendations to governments, the rule of law report will not live up to its full potential. The annual report is one of a number of tools the EU has to protect the rule of law, but efforts are impaired when there are no direct links made between the different instruments. For example, the report fails to link the misuse of EU funds to the new rule of law conditionality mechanism that we have been calling on the Commission to trigger for months.
“The attacks on media freedom and judicial independence once again headline the report, but not to the same extent in all member states. Unfortunately, there has been a constantly deteriorating situation in the usual suspects, Hungary and Poland. Yet the reality is even worse than the report suggests. In Hungary, there are allegations that Viktor Orbán’s government has been using the Pegasus software to spy on journalists. Meanwhile, the Polish government’s failure to implement European court rulings represents a systematic undermining of the EU’s legal order. In both cases, the EU must respond swiftly and severely to force regressive governments to comply with EU law. Today’s decision from the European Commission to set the Polish government an ultimatum or face financial penalties is a good example. We urge the Slovenian presidency to draw on this report in the Council to move to the next stage of the Article 7 proceedings against Poland and Hungary and issue recommendations. However, with recent attacks on journalists and a failure to appoint European public prosecutors, the Slovenian government’s poor track record on the rule of law this year suggests that we shouldn’t hold our breath.”