A report on the state of the rule of law in Europe

Share

Everything you need to know about the rule of law in Poland

More

In June of this year, professor Laurent Pech of Middlesex University London and professor Dimitry Kochenov of University of Groningen issued a reflection paper on the current state of the rule of law in the European Union titled “Strengthening the Rule of Law Within the European Union: Diagnoses, Recommendations, and What to Avoid”.



Professors Laurent Pech and Dimitry Kochenov recognise that in the last decade a growing amount of evidence has emerged indicating “rule of law backsliding”, which they define as “the process through which elected public authorities deliberately implement governmental blueprints which aim to systematically weaken, annihilate or capture internal checks on power with the view of dismantling the liberal democratic state and entrenching the long-term rule of the dominant party”.

 

In essence, their definition focuses on deliberate action and the goal of establishing an illiberal democracy as key aspects of the process. They indicate that the struggle of EU institutions to properly deal with threats to the rule of law in Member States can be explained by the longstanding but false assumption that making admission to the EU dependent on compliance with common values would mean only stable democracies based on the rule of law would become members.

 

The lack of any appropriate counteraction to the rule of law backsliding could undermine the EU integration process as a whole, as the rule of law is one of the main pillars on which the EU is based.

 

After their general diagnosis, Pech and Kochenov proceed to analyse tools available to the EU for monitoring and enforcing the rule of law. In general, they claim that the “toolbox” is in fact “sufficiently comprehensive and sophisticated”, contrary to the view recently promoted by the media and European politicians.

 

However, in order for those mechanisms to be fully effective, all of the actors engaged, including all EU institutions as well as the Member States, should be prepared to commit to the process instead of closing their eyes to the severity of the issue. The only aspect they identify as missing is the measure proposed by the Commission in May 2018 of explicitly conditioning of the flow of the EU budget on compliance with the rule of law.

 

Nonetheless, even in that regard, under the Common Provisions Regulation the European Union can already suspend the distribution of structural funds when evidence of gross breach of judicial independence and the rule of law is found.

 

In relation to more concrete proposals, the idea of linking oversight of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office with access to certain EU funds is introduced. They also identify strong political leadership aware of the significance of the issue at stake as an essential condition for preventing the “rule of law backsliding”.

 

Pech and Kochenov make a number of recommendations aimed at improving the mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing the rule of law in Member States. First of all, in regard to the Commission’s Rule of Law Framework, they suggest that it could be enhanced by having the period of “dialogue” preceding the formal opinion last a maximum of six months.

 

Furthermore, a maximum of one formal recommendation is to be issued within the following two months. Article 7 should be made a default option in case of non-compliance with the issued recommendation within a period of two months.

 

A number of other recommendations are proposed concerning mechanisms ranging from the EU Justice Board to the Council’s Annual Rule of Law Dialogue. Regarding treaty-based instruments, such as the infringement procedure, Pech and Kochenov propose several actions aimed at improving the effectiveness of such measures.

 

Firstly, they recommend that the Commission identifies rule of law issues explicitly as either a problem with judicial independence or a systematic violation of the principle of sincere cooperation, as proper identification provides a greater range of options for taking action.

 

Furthermore, Pech and Kochenov point out that time is of the essence when a breach of the rule of law is occurring, as a Member State could continue harmful activities even after deadlines for compliance with EU recommendations are set.

 

Therefore, they propose that the infringement procedure become the default option when a Member State is found to openly violate the rule of law. Moreover, application of interim measures should be systematically considered by the Commission. Generally, the actions taken in the case against Poland and the changes in the Polish Supreme Court should be “the new template to follow”.

 

One further improvement is proposed – the introduction of “systematic infringement” actions, which, according to Professor Scheppele of Princeton University, would help identify patterns of violations and get a fuller view of the situation.

 

On the other hand, Pech and Kochenov criticize some proposals such as Manfred Weber’s suggestion of creating a new panel composed of nine experts. Although they do not oppose the increased involvement of experts in the process of defending the rule of law in general, they find Weber’s proposal problematic, as it could potentially delay actions and undermine the authority of the Commission.

 

In addition, matters such as the selection of such experts might lead to conflict among the Member States and further delay much-needed actions. They label Weber’s plan “rushed, blue sky thinking” and call on the Commission to disregard it.

 

Overall, Pech and Kochenov conclude that what is needed is active dialogue and firm measures against the rule of law backsliding; however, radical reforms of existing mechanisms and tools should be avoided as to not create distractions from fundamental and pressing problems.

 

[by Martyna Olejnik]



Author


Everything you need to know about the rule of law in Poland


More

Published

June 28, 2019

Tags

Supreme CourtDisciplinary ChamberConstitutional TribunalPolandjudgesdisciplinary proceedingsrule of lawZbigniew ZiobroCourt of Justice of the EUNational Council of the Judiciaryjudicial independenceEuropean CommissionEuropean UnionMałgorzata ManowskaAndrzej DudaCourt of JusticeIgor TuleyaEuropean Court of Human Rightsdisciplinary systemMinister of JusticeJarosław KaczyńskiMateusz MorawieckiCJEUmuzzle lawCommissioner for Human RightsNational Recovery PlanAdam BodnardemocracyWaldemar ŻurekPrzemysław Radzikcriminal lawpresidential electionselectionsKamil Zaradkiewiczdisciplinary commissionerPiotr Schabmedia freedomneo-judgeselections 2023judiciaryFirst President of the Supreme Courtpreliminary rulingsSupreme Administrative CourtHungaryelections 2020K 3/21Dagmara Pawełczyk-WoickaNational Council for JudiciaryharassmentJulia PrzyłębskaProsecutor GeneralprosecutorsŁukasz PiebiakMichał LasotaBeata MorawiecPaweł JuszczyszynCourt of Justice of the European UnionPrime MinisterPresidentConstitutionCOVID-19European Arrest WarrantMaciej NawackiCriminal ChamberRegional Court in KrakówRecovery FundExtraordinary Control and Public Affairs ChamberEU budgetfreedom of expressiondisciplinary liability for judgesWojciech HermelińskiMarek SafjanMałgorzata GersdorfSejmMaciej Ferekfreedom of assemblyconditionalityLaw and JusticeprosecutionNCJMinistry of JusticeJustice FundNational ProsecutorPiSStanisław PiotrowiczAleksander StepkowskiOSCEPresident of the Republic of PolandIustitiacourtsTHEMISimmunityAnna DalkowskaNational Public ProsecutorCouncil of Europecriminal proceedingsStanisław Biernatconditionality mechanismWłodzimierz WróbelLabour and Social Security Chambercommission on Russian influence2017policeJustice Defence Committee – KOSFreedom HouseSupreme Court PresidentArticle 7Venice CommissionPM Mateusz MorawieckiNational Electoral CommissionJarosław WyrembakAndrzej Zollacting first president of the Supreme CourtOrdo IurisMay 10 2020 electionsPresident of PolandLGBTXero Flor w Polsce Sp. z o.o. v. PolandBroda and Bojara v PolandReczkowicz and Others v. Polandmedia independenceKrystian MarkiewiczSylwia Gregorczyk-AbramAmsterdam District CourtKrzysztof ParchimowiczMichał WawrykiewiczArticle 6 ECHREAWUrsula von der LeyenTVPmediaLex Super OmniaLech GarlickiEwa ŁętowskaStrategic Lawsuits Against Public ParticipationAndrzej StępkaPiotr GąciarekcorruptionP 7/20K 7/21Lex DudaNational Reconstruction PlanProfessional Liability ChambersuspensionparliamentJarosław DudziczChamber of Professional Liabilityelectoral codePiotr Prusinowskidemocratic backslidingdecommunizationLaw on the NCJrecommendationHuman Rights CommissionerCCBEThe Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europepublic opinion pollreportEuropean ParliamentZiobrointimidation of dissenterstransferretirement agePiebiak gatehuman rightsEuropean Association of Judges11 January March in WarsawcoronavirusC-791/19Piotr PszczółkowskiGeneral Assembly of the Supreme Court Judgeslex NGOcivil societyRussiaJarosław GowinLGBT ideology free zonescriminal codeSenateZuzanna Rudzińska-BluszczMarcin WarchołdefamationFree CourtsEwa WrzosekEU law primacyAdam TomczyńskiBelgiumNetherlandsBogdan Święczkowskijudcial independenceMaciej MiteraViktor OrbanOLAFNext Generation EUvetoabortionJózef IwulskiTeresa Dębowska-RomanowskaKazimierz DziałochaMirosław GranatAdam JamrózStefan JaworskiBiruta Lewaszkiewicz-PetrykowskaWojciech ŁączkowskiMarek MazurkiewiczAndrzej MączyńskiJanusz NiemcewiczMałgorzata Pyziak- SzafnickaStanisław RymarFerdynand RymarzAndrzej RzeplińskiJerzy StępieńPiotr TulejaSławomira Wronkowska-JaśkiewiczMirosław WyrzykowskiBohdan ZdziennickiMarek ZubikDidier ReyndersSLAPPOKO.pressDariusz ZawistowskiMichał LaskowskiMarek PietruszyńskiKrystyna PawłowiczMariusz MuszyńskiPaweł FilipekMaciej TaborowskiMarian BanaśSupreme Audit OfficeAdam SynakiewiczBelarusstate of emergencyKrakówXero Flor v. PolandAstradsson v IcelandK 6/21Civil ChamberJoanna Misztal-KoneckaPegasusMariusz KamińskisurveillanceCentral Anti-Corruption BureauJoanna Hetnarowicz-SikoraEdyta Barańskaright to fair trialUkraineKonrad WytrykowskiJakub IwaniecDariusz DrajewiczRafał Puchalskismear campaignmilestonesConstitutional Tribunal PresidentMarzanna Piekarska-Drążekelectoral processWojciech Maczugapublic medialexTuskcourt changeselections integrityelections fairnessabuse of state resourcesPATFoxpopulismequal treatmentfundamental rightsCT PresidentEUWhite Paperlustrationtransitional justice2018Nations in TransitCouncil of the EUStanisław ZabłockiLIBE CommitteeFrans TimmermansUS Department of StateSwieczkowskiadvocate generalpress releaseRights and Values ProgrammeC-619/18defamatory statementsWorld Justice Project awardWojciech SadurskijudgePechKochenovEvgeni TanchevFreedom in the WorldECJFrackowiakAmnesty Internationaltrans-Atlantic valuesLSOlawyersAct of 20 December 2019repressive actKoen LenaertsharrassmentAlina CzubieniakGerard BirgfellerEwa Maciejewskapostal votepostal vote billresolution of 23 January 2020Leon KieresPKWinfringment actionEU valuesENCJIsraelforeign agents lawOrganization of Security and Co-operation in EuropeFirst President of the Suprme CourtLGBT free zonesequalityChamber of Extraordinary Verificationhate crimeshate speechGrzęda v PolandŻurek v PolandSobczyńska and Others v PolandRafał Trzaskowskimedia lawPrzemysła RadzikElżbieta KarskaMarcin RomanowskiJacek CzaputowiczPrzemysław Czarneklegislative practiceENAZbigniew BoniekOmbudsmanKraśnikNorwayNorwegian fundsNorwegian Ministry of Foreign AffairsC-487/19Article 10 ECHRRegional Court in AmsterdamOpenbaar MinisterieAK judgmentSimpson judgmentForum Współpracy Sędziówpublic broadcastermutual trustLMIrelandIrena MajcherAmsterdamthe Regional Court in WarsawUnited NationsLeszek Mazurinterim measuresautocratizationMultiannual Financial Frameworkabortion rulingproteststhe NetherlandsDenmarkSwedenFinlandMariusz KrasońGermanyCelmerC354/20 PPUC412/20 PPUAusl 301 AR 104/19Karlsruheact on misdemeanoursCivil Service ActParliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europemedia taxadvertising taxmediabezwyboruJacek KurskiKESMAIndex.huTelex.huJelenJózsef SzájerKlubrádióGazeta WyborczaPollitykaBrussels IRome IIArticle 2Forum shoppingtransparencyEuropean Economic and Social CommitteeSebastian KaletaC-156/21C-157/21Marek PiertuszyńskiNational Prosecutor’s OfficeBogdan ŚwiączkowskiDisicplinary ChamberTribunal of StateOlsztyn courtPrzemysła CzarnekEducation MinisterIpsosOlimpia Barańska-MałuszeHudocKonrad SzymańskiPiotr BogdanowiczPiotr Burasauthoritarian equilibriumArticle 258clientelismoligarchic systemEuropean Public Prosecutor's OfficePolish National FoundationLux VeritatisMałgorzata BednarekPiotr WawrzykTVNjournalistslexTVNPolish mediaRzeszówborderprimacyEU treatiesAgnieszka Niklas-BibikSłupsk Regional CourtMaciej RutkiewiczMirosław Wróblewskiright to protestSławomir JęksaWiktor JoachimkowskiRoman GiertychMichał WośMinistry of FinanceJacek SasinErnest BejdaThe First President of the Supreme CourtMaciej CzajkaMariusz JałoszewskiŁukasz RadkepolexitDolińska-Ficek and Ozimek v PolandPaulina Kieszkowska-KnapikMaria Ejchart-DuboisAgreement for the Rule of LawPorozumienie dla PraworządnościAct sanitising the judiciaryMarek AstCourt of Appeal in KrakówPutinismKaczyńskiPaulina AslanowiczJarosław MatrasMałgorzata Wąsek-Wiaderekct on the Protection of the Populatiolegislationlex WośRome StatuteInternational Criminal CourtAntykastaStanisław ZdunIrena BochniakKrystyna Morawa-FryźlewiczKatarzyna ChmuraGrzegorz FurmankiewiczMarek JaskulskiJoanna Kołodziej-MichałowiczEwa ŁąpińskaZbigniew ŁupinaPaweł StyrnaKasta/AntykastaAndrzej SkowronŁukasz BilińskiIvan MischenkoMonika FrąckowiakArkadiusz CichockiEmilia SzmydtTomasz SzmydtE-mail scandalDworczyk leaksMichał Dworczykmedia pluralism#RecoveryFilesrepairing the rule of lawBohdan BieniekMarcin KrajewskiMałgorzata Dobiecka-WoźniakChamber of Extraordinary Control and Public AffairsWiesław KozielewiczNational Recovery Plan Monitoring CommitteeGrzegorz PudaPiotr MazurekJerzy KwaśniewskiPetros Tovmasyancourt presidentsODIHRFull-Scale Election Observation MissionNGOKarolina MiklaszewskaRafał LisakMałgorzata FroncJędrzej Dessoulavy-ŚliwińskiSebastian MazurekElżbieta Jabłońska-MalikSzymon Szynkowski vel SękJoanna Scheuring-Wielgusinsulting religious feelingsoppositionAdam GendźwiłłDariusz Dończyktest of independenceTomasz KoszewskiJakub KwiecińskidiscriminationAct on the Supreme Courtelectoral commissionsEuropean Court of HuKrzysztof RączkaPoznańKoan LenaertsKarol WeitzKaspryszyn v PolandNCR&DNCBiRThe National Centre for Research and DevelopmentEuropean Anti-Fraud Office OLAFJustyna WydrzyńskaAgnieszka Brygidyr-DoroszJoanna KnobelCrimes of espionageextraordinary commissionZbigniew KapińskiAnna GłowackaCourt of Appeal in WarsawOsiatyński'a ArchiveUS State DepartmentAssessment Actenvironmentinvestmentstrategic investmentgag lawsuitslex RaczkowskiPiotr Raczkowskithe Spy ActdisinformationNational Broadcasting Councilelection fairnessDobrochna Bach-GoleckaRafał WojciechowskiAleksandra RutkowskaGeneral Court of the EUArkadiusz RadwanLech WałęsaWałęsa v. Polandright to an independent and impartial tribunal established by lawpilot-judgmentDonald Tusk governmentSLAPPscivil lawRadosław Baszuk