EU: Civil society recommendations on the European Commission’s Rule of Law Report

The European Commission needs to improve its annual rule of law report and the process leading to it, in order to effectively address the rule of law breakdowns in some EU Member States, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today. It joined 61 other organisations in a joint statement.

The Commission’s 2021 Rule of law report, covers the situation of the rule of law in all EU Member states. The signatory organisations raise their concerns regarding (1) the transparency and methodology of the process leading to the reports, (2) the scope of the report which seems to omit crucial systemic and widespread human rights violations that that directly affect respect for the rule of law in the EU and (3) the lack of specific recommendations in the report, which would help increase the report’s impact and effectiveness.

“The rather descriptive approach to the report by the European Commission carries a great risk of underestimation of serious rule of law violations of systemic and deliberate nature,” said Karolína Babická, legal adviser at the ICJ.

“The bureaucratic approach fails to point to different levels of violations among Member States, especially given the extremely serious situation in Poland and Hungary.”

The statement further highlights “the apparent lack of any follow up to the reports. The reports do not issue any concrete, country-specific recommendations or any follow-up questions, giving very little guidance to governments on the actions needed to address the identified shortcomings and preventing watchdogs including civil society from monitoring follow-up action and seeking accountability.“

The organisations call on the Commission to adopt concrete, country specific recommendations, to use explicit language to identify systemic violations of the rule of law, to integrate the report with other EU frameworks and policy instruments, to set up an alert and rapid response mechanism, to promote an open follow-up dialogue and to conduct a robust evaluation of the effectiveness of its reports.

“These recommendations should be swiftly and fully implemented by the European Commission, that is now preparing its third rule of law report of 2022. That would also be in line with the commitment by the Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen to include country-specific recommendations in the Rule of Law reports in 2022, as mentioned in the State of the Union address,” said Karolína Babická. 

Read the statement here.

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