Respect for rule of law principles by all member states is an indispensable pillar of the European Union. It is a key value that all member states share, as is stated in the preamble to the Treaty on European Union. Speaking in the German Bundestag, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas underscored Germany’s clear position and declared that Germany intends to redouble its efforts during its EU Presidency with a view to ensuring adherence to common rules.
A new peer review mechanism
Rule of law is not trivial, but rather the “guarantee of guarantees” that is fundamental to Europe as a community of law. During our Presidency, we want to launch a new mechanism whereby all members will undergo a rule of law peer review.
This new procedure will be based on the first annual Rule of Law Report that the Commission is due to present in September. Germany will take this opportunity to initiate regular, candid and critical discussions in the Council. These will include debate on pan-European developments and on country chapters. It will thus be a preventive instrument that enables open and constructive dialogue on the rule of law.
Appropriate, proportionate and temporary: measures in response to COVID-19
When responding to the global pandemic, governments must ensure that the actions they take remain proportionate. Unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere, also in Europe. Germany therefore welcomes the fact that the European Commission is monitoring measures taken by its member states in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to determine whether these respect the principles of the rule of law. Foreign Minister Maas firmly believes that “anyone who uses the pandemic to permanently undermine rule of law principles must not walk away scot-free.”
The Article 7 procedure, infringement proceedings and budgetary consequences
Strengthening the rule of law is a priority of the German Presidency. The German Government will therefore support the activities of the Commission and the European Parliament in connection with the Article 7 procedures they have initiated against Poland and Hungary. Maas also said that infringement proceedings must not be taboo when it comes to protecting fundamental European values. Moreover, in the context of negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework, the German Government is campaigning for the introduction of rule of law conditionality for the disbursement of EU funds. For anyone shirking their rule of law obligations, Maas insisted, there must be a price to pay. He went on to say that the EU cannot and will not permit any undermining of the rule of law.