The EU’s rule of thumb ‘Rule of Law’

Last week the Prime Minister of Poland, Beata Szydło attended the European Parliament’s sitting in Strasbourg to defend her new government’s changes to the constitutional court and national public media laws. She opposed the European Commission’s unprecedented probe into Rule of Law that could result in a suspension of Poland’s voting rights in the EU Council of Ministers. Seeing the Commission actively defend human rights is certainly a positive step forward. However, I don’t understand the Commission’s methodology: why take action against one Member State and not another? Why Poland and not Hungary?

I am not the only one to wonder. EurActiv recently mused that, “at the time when the Rule of Law mechanism was adopted, the situation in Hungary was very similar to the one of today’s Poland. There was pressure on the media, pressure on the constitutional court, and lots of institutional changes that were introduced in a very quick way.”

Although pressure was put on the Hungarian Prime Minister to amend his changes, serious questions remain today regarding his government’s compliance with European values such as his policy towards migrants and his consideration of reinstating capital punishment.

The EU’s stance against the actions of Prime Minister Szydło show that it has become an active defender of the Rule of Law and human rights, but what is lacking is a strategy. How are such processes triggered?

This is why Social Platform has been calling for an EU internal strategy to promote human rights, so that the EU engages with Member States to proactively promote human rights and ensure that situations like those in Poland, Hungary and other Member States don’t occur.

We can be proud of our external human rights activities, set out in an action plan and overseen by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative. We need a similar action plan to proactively promote and defend human rights within our own borders. Until then, the EU’s piecemeal approach to internal human rights and democracy will undermine its credibility, both at home and abroad.

Let’s engage!

Pierre Baussand, Director