European Commission announces plans to strengthen the rule of law in line with proposals made by Philanthropy Advocacy
The Commission has decided on a series of measures to further strengthen the rule of law in Europe following a consultation to which Philanthropy Advocacy (DAFNE and EFC) contributed. The announcement came on 17 July.
The European Union relies on respect for the rule of law, which is a prerequisite for citizens to enjoy their rights under EU law. The EU is based on a set of shared values, including fundamental rights, democracy, and the rule of law. This implies independent courts guaranteeing the protection of fundamental rights and civil liberties, and an active civil society and free media ensuring pluralism. Realising that over the past five years, the European Commission has had to deal with a series of challenges to the rule of law in the EU, the strengthening of the rule of law is very much welcomed by Philanthropy Advocacy (a joint initiative of DAFNE and EFC).
The Commission agreed to work on three pillars, all of which reflect points brought up by the Philanthropy Advocacy contribution:
- Promotion of a common rule of law culture across Europe, including: A dedicated annual event for dialogue with civil society; use of funding possibilities to empower stakeholders, including civil society, to promote the rule of law; and the setting up of a dedicated communication strategy on the rule of law. The Commission will strengthen cooperation with the Council of Europe and other international organisations, as well as with judicial networks and national parliaments, and calls on the European Parliament, the Council and Member States to engage in this process.
- Prevention of the emergence of rule of law problems: Setting up a “Rule of Law Review Cycle”, including an annual “Rule of Law Report”covering all EU Member States. The Commission will also further develop the EU Justice Scoreboard and strengthen the dialogue with other EU institutions, Member States, European political parties and stakeholders.
- Effective common response to rule of law breaches: The Commission will continue to make full use of its enforcement powers, if early detection and prevention measures are not effective. A strategic approach to infringement proceedings is suggested as is bringing cases to the Court of Justice of the EU as necessary. In light of the time sensitivity of such cases, the Commission will request interim measures and expedited procedures when needed. In addition, the Commission calls on the European Parliament and the Council to reflect on a collective approach to managing Article 7 TEU cases with clear procedural rules.
Being the guardian of the Treaties, the European Commission acknowledges its unique role in defending the rule of law, but it also stresses that all EU institutions and Member States are responsible for guaranteeing the respect of the rule of law as a fundamental value of the EU. It also clearly recognises that an effective response requires the support of civil society. As we have argued in our contribution, civil society and philanthropy needs an enabling environment to do this. Philanthropy Advocacy (a joint initiative by DAFNE and EFC) contributed to the EC online consultation on the rule of law. Please find the link to the press release for the Communication on the Rule of Law Debate: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-19-4169_en.htm
The European Commission at the same time is publishing results of a Eurobarometer public opinion survey that shows that citizens support respect for the rule of law:
- More than 8 in 10 citizens say that effective judicial protection by independent courts, equality before the law and proper investigation and prosecution of corruption, are important to them.
- More than 8 in 10 citizens say that the rule of law needs to be respected in all other Member States.
- Over 80% of citizens in the EU support improvements regarding key rule of law principles.
The Eurobarometer also shows strong support for the role of media and civil society in holding those in power to account, with more than 8 in 10 citizens considering it important that media and civil society can operate freely and criticise the government without risk of intimidation.