During its Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Germany initiated a new rule of law mechanism and dialogue that is designed to strengthen shared understanding regarding this fundamental value of the European Union. The aim of the dialogue, which is being conducted between all participants as equals and based on verifiable and transparent criteria, is to have an exchange on the rule of law in the individual member states and the EU as a whole. Today, the second such dialogue is taking place to examine the rule of law situation in five countries. In addition to Germany, the focus will be on Greece, France, Spain and Ireland. Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth firmly believes that “there can be no double standards here. The rule of law dialogue is more important than ever, because in the EU we still lack a common understanding as to what the rule of law entails. That said, rule of law principles should unite us – we must not allow them to divide us.”
The report by the Commission that will be discussed today looks at four aspects: the separation of powers and a culture of democracy, an independent justice system, the fight against corruption, and media pluralism. Germany, Roth insists, is a strong, functioning state founded on the rule of law. Yet in Germany, too, he says, “we need to do better,” insisting that some challenges remain that need to be overcome. These relate to the digital transformation of the judiciary, an increase in violence directed at journalists, and hate speech targeting minorities, including online. The rule of law dialogue is all about learning from and with one another. In this way, developments that give cause for concern should be identified early on, so that the member states can take collective corrective action.
COVID‑19: Vaccine doses for the Western Balkans and the Digital Green Certificate
With regard to COVID‑19, Roth welcomed the fact that the EU will receive an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The 651,000 vaccine doses that the EU will be making available to the Western Balkan countries also send a strong signal. This is an urgently needed sign of teamwork and solidarity. Another important milestone towards overcoming the pandemic is the Digital Green Certificate that has been created at EU level. It is scheduled to be introduced by June, and it is necessary for achieving the much-needed reinstatement of individual rights.
Launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe
The agenda of today’s discussions of the Ministers for European Affairs also includes the Conference on the Future of Europe. Preparations for the official launch of the conference are nearing completion. Yesterday, a digital platform was presented on which the outcomes of various events can be posted. Germany, too, is already planning to hold national events. The conference will be officially launched on Europe Day (9 May). The aim is, through the active involvement of EU citizens, to develop joint proposals on what our Union should look like 10 or 15 years from now and what issues it should address with specific EU capabilities and instruments.