28 May 2019

Rule of law infringement procedures

A proposal to extend the EU’s rule of law toolbox

Petra Bárd / Anna Śledzińska-Simon

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In this contribution, we propose that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) introduce ‘rule of law infringement procedures’, having both a fast-track and a freezing component, as part of a wider ‘EU rule of law toolbox’. We show rule of law infringement procedures’ great potential in tackling rule of law backsliding in the Member States, provided that the following rules are applied. First, the European Commission should identify the rule of law problem explicitly. Second, it should not waste time and postpone its legal actions, while a Member State openly violates the rule of law. Third, the CJEU should automatically prioritise and accelerate infringement cases with a rule of law element to avoid more harm being done by those in power. Fourth, interim measures should be used to put an immediate halt to rule of law violations that can culminate in grave and irreversible harm. Fifth, EU institutions should establish a periodic rule of law review. It should help them to determine if there is a systemic threat to the rule of law in a given Member State, and provide additional legitimacy to the European Commission for initiating rule of law infringement actions and to the CJEU for ruling on such matters.

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