Suspension of EU Funds Paid to Member States Breaching the Rule of Law – The Commission Could Have Done It Better
24 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2020
Date Written: December 20, 2019
In the European debate over the alleged breaches of the rule of law by Hungry and Poland it is increasingly pointed out that the EU does not have effective legal instruments to stop such violations. Those who believe in the driving force of enforcement measures argue that maybe changes could bring about the threat of suspending EU funds dispersed to these Member States from the EU budget, and increase the political consequences their illiberal governments could experience at the national level. In response, the Commission presented, on 2 May 2018, a Draft Regulation authorizing the Council to suspend EU funds if a Member State is found to be in non-compliance with the rule of law (known as ‘the conditionality mechanism’). This paper comments on the proposed model for this mechanism, which is supposed to apply after January 2021.
It can be said at the outset that the premises required for launching this mechanism have been formulated extremely broadly, leaving the Commission and the Council, who will initiate it, with a considerable margin of manoeuvre. The Member States whose EU funds are to be suspended can easily lose them forever if, within two years from the year of suspension, they do not eliminate the alleged breach of the rule of law and have both the Commission and the Council lift the suspension. Even though the suspension should only affect Member States, beneficiaries of EU funds (including e.g. farmers) may also suffer from it, with no legal protections established. Doubts also arise as to the relationship between the conditionality mechanism and the Art. 7 TEU procedure. All these reservations lead to the question: Could the Commission, the author of this Draft, have done it better?
Keywords: Rule of law, EU funds, illiberal democracy, financial interests of the European Union, Art. 2 TEU, Art. 7 TEU, general infringement procedure
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation