Rule of Law: Too many blind spots

Hungary and Poland are not the only “sinners” when it comes to the rule of law in the EU. Other countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Slovakia are also struggling with the independence of the judiciary and the media.

These are the findings of the first report on the situation of the rule of law in all 27 Member States presented by the European Commission. The report goes further than previous initiatives at EU level, which is to be welcomed.

But the report also contains too many blind spots. For example, the controversial interventions (and abuses) by the Spanish central government in the region of Catalonia, which is striving for autonomy, are not even mentioned.

Police assaults in France during the “yellow vest” protests are also faded out. The controversial right of public prosecutors in Germany to issue political instructions is only mentioned, but not problematised.

Even the partly still valid national exception rules for the fight against the Corona pandemic are not mentioned – in doing so they raise numerous legal problems.

For example, Germany restricts basic rights on a questionable basis – the Infection Protection Act of 2001, which has been amended several times in order to fit for Corona.

The main problem, however, is that the Commission has designed its “rule of law check-up” too small. It is not in a position to detect the slide into an “illiberal democracy” as openly propagated by Hungarian Prime Minister Orban.

The bureaucrats from Brussels have not even examined the subject of democracy, as Green MEP S. Giegold complains.

The EU Commission’s checklist lacks, for instance, the integrity of elections and party financing, but also fundamental rights for minorities such as the Roma or the LGBTIQ community. The EU Commission assesses Europe’s fundamental values with a limited field of vision. It is as if the German TÜV only checks the engine but not the steering of a car.

S. Giegold, Green MEP

The European Parliament wanted more, but was passed over. That makes all the alarm bells ring in my case. Why should an unelected bureaucracy actually judge democracy and the rule of law?

Would it not be the task of elected representatives and politicians? At the very least, the results of the “rule of law check-up” – and their political consequences – should be democratically legitimised…

Translated with (free version) The original post (in German) is here