The European Parliament gave the European Commission until Nov. 2 to initiate rule-of-law proceedings against Hungary and Poland, or the body will take Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission to court for failing to meet their contractual obligations, European Parliament President David Sassoli said on Wednesday.
The development certainly has to do with the harsh conflict between Brussels, Poland, and Hungary.
“EU states that violate the rule of law should not receive EU funds. We have a mechanism for this, but the European Commission is failing to use it. I have therefore asked our services to prepare a lawsuit against the commission to ensure rules are enforced,” Sassoli tweeted on Wednesday after consulting European Parliament political group leaders in Strasbourg.
The EU parliament wants to sue the European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen for failing to apply the rule-of-law mechanism that came into force on Jan. 1. If the mechanism is not applied, EU funds could be withdrawn from some member states under the rule of law. In the meantime, Hungary and Poland have challenged the conditionality regulation in the European Court of Justice, but the EU parliament has consistently argued that the ongoing dispute does not have a delaying effect on sanctions.
The deteriorating rule of law debate with Poland has certainly contributed to the European Parliament’s haste with the lawsuit. Yesterday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in a very strongly-worded speech in Strasbourg rejected the stealthy expansion of powers of the EU institutions and the threat of financial sanctions.
Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga wrote about the unfolding lawsuit in a Facebook post last week, saying that MEPs do not hesitate to vindicate the powers of other European institutions in order to put pressure on non-compliant states.
“They do all this because there are those who think differently than they would like. […] As long as the institutions compete with each other, it is important that we Hungarians, together with our Polish friends, continue to take our views boldly and stick to our principles and values,” Varga wrote.
In a letter published by David Sassoli to the European Parliament’s Legal Service on Wednesday, the president asked that if the European Commission did not initiate legal proceedings under the regulation by Nov. 2, an action for failure to act should be brought against the body.
According to the EU parliament, the European Court of Justice does not perform its role of guardian of the treaties on the rule of law. Incidentally, Sassoli’s letter mentions that the political context of the dispute is quite heightened, and also mentions the Hungarian and Polish court lawsuits. The preparation of the lawsuit was also preceded by a vote in the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI).
Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders announced earlier this week that there could only be days left before the first rule-of-law proceedings were launched, so it is a reasonable assumption that the European Parliament may be knocking on open doors.