Play by the rules or get less EU funds: MEPs on rule of law mechanism

MEPs Roberta Metsola and Miriam Dalli on rule of law, climate and carbon emissions, and gender quotas

EU member states will have to play by the rules lest they be punished by a reduction in EU funds over breaches of rule of law.

Maltese MEPs Roberta Metsola (EPP) and Miriam Dalli (S&D) were both on the same page on a push to have an objective mechanism that will determine whether EU member states who breach rule of law should be eligible for European funds.

The proposed conditionality would apply to the EU’s multi-annual budget for 2021-2027 and the intention is to protect these common funds from the consequences of rule of law backsliding, such as corruption.

Metsola said the mechanism should not allow member states, who use their resounding electoral victories to ignore rule of law at home, to run roughshod over EU values.

“My point of departure is values – if candidate countries to the EU must respect our values to access the Union, they cannot ignore them once they become members. This is the benchmark that must be implemented on laws that govern the disbursement of EU funds.

“You do get governments – like Bulgaria, Czechia, Poland and Romania – who say they have been ‘abused’ under rule of law issues from the EU… but this objective mechanism will eliminate such an argument, since all EU member states will be measures by the same yardstick.”

Metsola credited the European Parliament as having produced the overwhelming push towards Malta undertaking important rule of law reforms.

On her part, Dalli said that the EU rule of law report had recognised Malta’s advances on rule of law, recognised also as a ‘best practice’ state in a list from Brussels newspaper Politico.

Dalli, an S&D vice-president, spoke of the need to get member states in line to reach EU carbon neutrality targets by 2050, and to become carbon-negative beyond 2050.

The S&D is pushing for an ambitious target of 60% cuts in emissions, above the Commission’s 55%, which would ultimately be only a net 53% cut.

“We wanted to see this target reached by 2040, but industry wants peace of mind so that it can plan ahead. If we set one target for 2030 and then for 2050, there is ample time to prepare,” Dalli said, who also wants the EU to have its own carbon council to mirror the United Nations’ IPCC, with representatives from all member states advising on carbon cuts.

“If we agree on 2030 targets, a number of laws will have to be rewritten to lead us to reduce emissions: you have the six pillars of big industry, energy, transport, construction, agriculture and waste. I think our biggest target is transport and construction, the latter accounting for 40% of emissions in Europe. I am referring here to winning greater efficiency in the way construction is carried out. The PL right now has environment and economy as two of its policy fora, subjects which go hand-in-hand: if we must move towards competitivity we must also reduce emissions.”

Dalli is also championing gender quotas on company boards, a proposal from the European Commission that has never gathered steam since it was launched in 2013. The upcoming German presidency is an opponent of mandatory quotas.

“Countries that used legislative action on quotas saw an increase of 27% of women on boards; countries that had non-legislative measures also saw a gradual increase. But there was no improvement in countries that had no such measures.

“We need to be more courageous – it is not enough to have quotas in politics,” Dalli said referring to the Maltese proposal for female representation. “I think it cannot stop at politics only, it must move towards all decision-making fora.”

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