“We are proposing a new mechanism that will protect the budget in terms of the risks associated with deficiencies in the rule of law,” Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, told the European Parliament recently. “This is a mechanism to be applied generally because it does not target specific Member States,” he insisted.
Nevertheless, both the Polish and Hungarian governments, which have been threatened with punishment by the EU for refusing to accept migrant quotas and for allegedly weakening the rule of law in their own states, feel that they are being directly targeted by this initiative. If approved by both the Member States and the European Parliament, the proposed new regulation will allow the EU to suspend, reduce, or restrict access to EU funds in a manner commensurate with the nature, severity, and extent of what it deems to be “widespread failures of the rule of law.”
Such a decision must first be proposed by the Commission and then adopted by the Council, which represents all of the Member States, by a “reverse qualified majority” vote, the European Commission stated. Each Member State has a certain number of votes (France has 29, for example). This so-called reverse qualified majority procedure requires Member States to attain at least 255 votes in order to reject the Commission’s recommendation, which is very difficult.
Several countries are calling for this mechanism as a consequence of Brussels’ unsuccessful standoff with the ultra-conservative Polish government, which has been accused of threatening the independence of its judiciary. As a response to the cumbersome nature of the ongoing procedure which was launched by the Commission, the idea of this new initiative is to be able to exert financial pressure on Member States in similar cases.
“We will not accept arbitrary mechanisms that will render the management of funds an instrument of political pressure on demand,” warned Polish Deputy Minister for European Affairs Konrad Szymanski.