European Parliament Chief David Sassoli asked the parliament’s legal service on Wednesday to prepare a lawsuit against the European Commission for failing to apply the conditionality regulation.
As indicated in the EP’s communication, the regulation, which was adopted last December, allows the EU to suspend payments from the EU budget to member states where the rule of law is at risk.
The president’s letter to the European Parliament’s legal service comes after a vote in the parliament’s legal affairs committee recommending that proceedings shall be brought up before the Court of Justice of the EU. As reported, the majority of political group leaders at Wednesday’s Conference of Presidents, which is made up of the EP chief and political group leaders, supported the action.
The letter indicates that Parliament will withdraw this legal action if the European Commission takes the necessary measures. Speaking after a meeting of political group leaders in the Parliament, the EP president noted that EU member states that violate the rule of law should not receive EU funds. He weighed in, saying that last year the EP “fought hard” for a mechanism to ensure this, but so far, the European Commission has been reluctant to use it.
“The European Union is a community built on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. If they are at risk in a Member State, the EU must act to protect them. This is why I have asked our legal services to prepare a lawsuit against the Commission to ensure the proper enforcement of EU rules,” Sassoli stressed.
On Tuesday, the EP held a stormy debate on the verdict of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal in the context of the primacy of European law. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki explained that EU law takes precedence over national law up to the level of the law and in the areas of competence granted to the Union, while the Constitution remains the supreme law. According to EC Chairwoman Ursula von der Leyen, the Constitutional Court’s ruling calls into question the foundations of the European Union. After the debate, the EP issued a communiqué in which it informed that it “asked the European Commission to take immediate action to defend Polish citizens and the foundations of EU law by activating the conditionality mechanism”.
The Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation, designed to protect EU funds from possible misuse by EU governments, came into force on 1 January 2021. However, no instruments have been proposed under the new rules. The European Council has asked the Commission to delay their application so that member states can challenge them in the EU Court of Justice (Poland and Hungary did so on 11 March 2021), and until the Commission draws up detailed guidelines for their application.
In a resolution adopted at the end of June by 506 votes to 150, with 28 abstentions, MEPs said that the rule of law conditionality regulation, which entered into force on 1 January 2021, also applies to funds allocated through the EU’s Instrument for Reconstruction. Despite this, the European Commission has not proposed any measures under the new rules and has missed the 1 June deadline, set by the Euro Parliament in a resolution of 25 March, for finalising guidelines on the application of the regulation. At the time, this was considered “sufficient grounds to take legal action against the Commission under Article 265 TFEU”.