EU Parliament preps legal action against Commission over ‘failure’ to act on rule of law

The European Parliament’s legal team has been told to prepare a lawsuit against the European Commission over the latter’s “failure” to punish countries that “violate” the rule of law.

In a statement Wednesday, the Parliament said the Commission should have made use of a so-called conditionality mechanism, a new authority giving the EU power to suspend budget payments to countries over certain rule-of-law breaches.

In the statement, Parliament President David Sassoli said: “EU Member States that violate the rule of law should not receive EU funds. Last year, Parliament fought hard for a mechanism to ensure this. However, so far the European Commission has been reluctant to use it.”

He added that if the rule of law is under threat, “the EU must act,” Sassoli said, adding: “I have therefore asked our legal services to prepare a lawsuit against the Commission to ensure that EU rules are properly enforced.”

The statement does not name any country where the rule of law is said to be under threat. However, in an attached letter to legal expert Freddy Drexler, Sassoli does mention Hungary and Poland, both countries that have fought with the EU over allegations of democratic backsliding.

Sassoli said the legal action should be triggered on November 2 if no action is taken by the Commission.

On Tuesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki clashed during a Parliament debate on Warsaw’s persistent challenges to EU rule-of-law principles. The debate centered on a recent ruling by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal that was widely viewed in Brussels as undermining the EU’s fundamental legal order, by effectively declaring primacy of the national constitution over the EU treaties.

But while von der Leyen said the situation has only grown worse amid Commission enforcement efforts, she announced no new concrete steps, despite many in the Parliament calling for the new mechanism to be used.

Von der Leyen said Tuesday that her team was still studying the Polish constitutional court’s decision. “The European Commission is at the moment carefully assessing this judgement but I can already tell you today I am deeply concerned,” she said, adding: “We cannot and will not allow our common values to be put at risk.”

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