At this week’s plenary session in Strasbourg, the European Parliament endorsed a draft law on a new tool meant to protect the EU budget and uphold EU values. Governments interfering with courts or failing to tackle fraud and corruption will risk suspension of EU funds in the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework.
The proposal—which would restrict offending countries access to EU funds in the case of serious deficiencies in the rule of law—was put forward by Commissioner Günther Oettinger. Despite 69 abstentions and all Fidesz MEP’s choosing to vote against, the Plenary endorsed the rules with 397 to 158 votes. MEPs are now ready to enter into negotiations regarding the final wording of the regulation with EU ministers, who thus far remain undecided.
Assisted by a panel of independent experts, the EU Commission would be tasked with establishing “generalized deficiencies as regards the rule of law” and deciding on measures which could include suspending EU budget payments and reducing pre-financing. The decision would only be implemented once approved by the Parliament and the Council. Once the member state remedies the deficiencies identified by the EU Commission, Parliament and EU ministers can unlock the funds.
With the mechanism, they could suspend or reduce the EU resources of countries that seriously violate the rule of law, interfering with courts or do not act effectively enough against corruption or tax fraud.
Committee on Budgets co-rapporteur Eider Gardiazabal Rubial said the following about the draft law:
The respect of rule of law and all EU values are core principles upon which we built the European project. No government can violate those values without suffering the consequences.
Manfred Weber also showed support for the proposal. Earlier this week, he claimed that the European Union needs a tougher and more effective rule of law mechanism than Article 7 and said he hopes the European Court of Justice will come to a decision quickly regarding the two central Hungarian issues: the university and NGO laws.