Jakob Cornides, JurD, serves as an official in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Trade. The views expressed in this contribution are the author’s, and are in no way attributable to the institution where he is employed.
In this year’s “State of the Union Address”, delivered on 11 September 2013 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Commission President Barroso announced that the Commission would come forward with a communication that would contain proposals for a “general framework” to address “challenges to the rule of law in our own member states”. Just one week earlier, on 4 September, Commission Vice President Viviane Reding had given a talk at the premises of the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS), in which she outlined what such a “rule-of-law-mechanism” might look like. While it must be supposed that, rather than an official Commission position, this talk represented nothing but Commissioner Reding’s personal views, it nevertheless could be seen as a sort of kite-flying exercise with the purpose of testing the reactions of the public to ideas for which the Commissioner wants to garner support. The Commissioner’s intention to frame the debate is further underlined by the fact that she will host a conference in Brussels on 21/22 November in Brussels, where one panel has been set up to deal with her proposal, which has been summarized in a discussion paper.
Commissioner Reding. Photo from the CEPS website
In this post I will set out the “challenges” that Commissioner Reding thinks should be addressed and then describe the remedies that she proposes before offering my own views on whether there is indeed a problem and my analysis of the proposed solutions. In my view, the Commissioner’s analysis of supposed problems is rather unconvincing, and her proposals appear more likely to create new problems than to solve existing ones. In particular, her proposals would accord excessive power of the judicial institutions of the European Union and in effect end the sovereignty of Member States.
The so called “Rule of Law” Crisis
In her CEPS speech, Mrs. Reding specifically mentioned three cases in which a “rule-of-law-crisis” in a Member State made an intervention by the Commission necessary: (1) the political mayhem surrounding the French government’s decision to repatriate several thousand Roma originating from Romania and Bulgaria, who had neither residence nor work permits, back to their countries of origin; (2) the lively debates, in particular in the European Parliament, concerning the new constitution of Hungary in 2011; and (3) the constitutional crisis in Romania in 2012, where the newly elected Government, attempting to divest State President Traian Basescu of powers, refused to abide by a decision of the country’s Constitutional Court finding that a referendum to impeach the President had failed to attain the necessary quorum. According to Commissioner Reding, these three cases illustrate that a new “rule-of-law-mechanism” is necessary for the EU in order to prevent national governments from violating the EU’s common values. Read the rest of this entry…