Sant points out EU’s quandary in assessing rule of law breaches by member states

No agreed or concrete rulebook by which to assess rule of law practices in different member states, says Alfred Sant

Labour MEP Alfred Sant
Labour MEP Alfred Sant

Labour MEP Alfred Sant told a plenary debate on a proposal for rule of law measures that no agreed or concrete rulebook by which to assess such practices in different member states exists.

In a statement during a plenary debate on a proposal for a regulation on the protection of the Union’s budget in case of deficiencies in rule of law in the Member States, Sant said measures to promote and enforce the rule of law in the European Union must be supported.

But he said assessments remain dependent on subjective political criteria that may not be applied uniformly and equally to all.

“What constitutes a breach of the rule of law is still open to interpretation that too often discriminates between Member States. Moreover, the implementation of rule of law provisions including decisions to apply sanctions can only be as objective as possible if the agency that applies them is independent of all other agencies in the Union,” Sant said.

“It also needs to have a quasi-judicial status and the power to investigate cases of infringement as they arise,” Sant said, adding that it was “extremely doubtful” as to whether such a role should be assigned to the European Commission given its executive and political status.

“Another point to keep in mind is whether budgetary sanctions as envisaged would not end up hurting most citizens who might themselves be the victims of alleged rule of law breaches,” he said.

The proposal by the Commission proposes to make EU funds for Member States under the next long-term budget of the EU conditional on their respect for the rule of law. The proposal is mainly in response to criticism that the EU is unable to handle countries where the judiciary's independence is compromised, or there is misuse of EU funds.