‘No case will be lost under the rule of law mechanism’, Commission says
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‘No case will be lost under the rule of law mechanism’, Commission says

The new banner NextGenerationEU being unveiled on the front of the Berlaymont building on 9 May 2021, credit: EU, 2021

The first national Recovery and Resiliency Plans under the EU’s COVID-19 recovery package are soon to be adopted but without any guidelines by the European Commission on the rule of law mechanism.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will start touring the EU member states next week to discuss their national plans and visit projects that might be funded by the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility of €672,5 billion in loans and grants, it was announced during a press briefing on Friday 11 June. The first national plans are due to be approved soon.

A so-called rule of law mechanism is part of the recovery package. The European Council has agreed on a compromise which will allow for the suspension or reduction of EU funding to member states with focus on financial irregularities. However, according to the Council decision further legal clarification by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is required.

Only after its judgement, which has not yet been issued, will the Commission finalise guidelines on the application of the mechanism. Both Hungary and Poland have filed legal complaints to the court. In the meantime, the Commission is not proposing any measures under the mechanism but has assured that it already has started to look at possible cases.

The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a resolution to bring the Commission to the European Court of Justice for inaction over the rule of law of mechanism. The mechanism, which has been in place since January the 1st this year, has yet to be triggered by the Commission over breaches of the rule of law that affect the EU’s budget.

Asked by The Brussels Times about the delay, a Commission spokesperson replied at the press conference that the Commission has taken note of the resolution and will reply formally to the Parliament.

“The Commission is absolutely committed to applying the regulation which entered into force on 1 January.”

He added that the Commission has worked hard since then to identify possible cases that could be brought under the rule of law mechanism and to finalise the guidelines. The Commission will share draft guidelines with the Parliament and the member states next week and intend to take into account their views. “The mechanism can be applied retroactively and no case will be lost.”

Commission budget commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Tuesday that the EU needs a successful start to give the instrument the necessary power to change situations that are not in line with its understanding of the rule of law.

The Parliament however has lost patience with the Commission over the missed deadline.  “People in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere need to know that the Commission is on their side and will fight for their rights as EU citizens,” commented MEP Terry Reintke, Greens/EFA negotiator and rapporteur on the rule of law mechanism.

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times