EU-wide Pact on Democracy to monitor democracy trends
Member States and EU institutions should be treated equally under the new mechanism
Maria Koleva, Strasbourg
28 October, 2016A new Europe-wide scheme that will monitor the democracy performance, the rule of law and fundamental rights in each Member State and that will replace the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism for Bulgaria and Romania was backed by MEPs on 25 October during the plenary in Strasbourg. They urged the Commission to set up a binding EU mechanism to monitor and report annually on these areas, as to end the current “crisis-driven” approach to perceived breaches of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU member countries.These core values and principles will be upheld throughout the EU in a Union Pact on Democracy, the resolution said. This pact (DRF Pact) will address both the Member States and the EU institutions, and under it will be produced an annual report on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights with country-specific recommendations incorporating the reporting done by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, the Council of Europe, and other relevant authorities. On the basis of this report, there will be held as well an annual inter-parliamentary debate. It also foresees arrangements for remedying possible risks and breaches, as provided for by the Treaties, including the activation of the preventative or corrective arms of Article 7 TEU.As the Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld, ALDE Group, rapporteur on the legislative initiative said, the principles of the DRF Pact are clear: all Member States and EU institutions should be treated equally and assessed on the same basis. Many citizens are calling for sanctions to punish all those breaching our principles and values, she asserted adding that while sanctions are an essential part of the enforcement toolkit, “this Pact will allow us to create a culture of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights”. According to the rapporteur, it will allow EU citizens to define common standards and “engage in an ongoing process of sharing our shared values”.MEPs urged that the European DRF Report shall be accompanied by country-specific recommendations and elaborated with a specific focus on aspects among which the separation of powers, the permanence of the State and institutions, based on the immutability of the constitution, the freedom and pluralism of the media, equality before the law and non-discrimination, and particular challenges to the rule of law like corruption, conflict of interest, collection of personal data and surveillance.Supporting the proposal, Frank Engel (EPP, LU), shadow rapporteur, underlined that the new mechanism is aimed at ensuring continuity of statehood of institutions, of impartiality of state against electoral result and against those who believe that saving the Occident is more important that saving their own citizens from arbitrary governance. Slovak MEP Monika Flasikova-Benova,S&D Group shadow rapporteur for the report, stated that when a country is applying to join the European Union, we have significant powers to monitor the rule of law situation in the country. However, as soon as a country joins, this monitoring process stops, she stressed noting that recent developments in Hungary and Poland show that the EU needs to have new tools at its disposal to tackle threats to the fundamental principles that underpin our democracies.