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Protecting the EU budget against generalised rule of law deficiencies

25-06-2020

When preparing the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework, the European Commission proposed to strengthen the link between EU funding and respect for the rule of law. To this end, on 3 May 2018, the Commission presented a proposal for a regulation that would introduce a general rule of law conditionality into the EU's financial rules. Any Member State where a generalised rule of law deficiency is found could be subject to the suspension of payments and commitments, reduced funding and a prohibition ...

When preparing the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework, the European Commission proposed to strengthen the link between EU funding and respect for the rule of law. To this end, on 3 May 2018, the Commission presented a proposal for a regulation that would introduce a general rule of law conditionality into the EU's financial rules. Any Member State where a generalised rule of law deficiency is found could be subject to the suspension of payments and commitments, reduced funding and a prohibition on concluding new commitments. On 13 November 2019, the decision of the European Parliament's Budget and Budgetary Control Committees to enter interinstitutional negotiations on the proposal was announced in plenary. Negotiations will be based on Parliament's first-reading position adopted in plenary in April 2019. Parliament's main amendments are concerned with the definition of generalised deficiencies, procedural issues (the panel of independent experts and the need to put Parliament on an equal footing with Council), and with the protection of end beneficiaries of EU funding. The rule of law conditionality has become an important element of the negotiations on the legislative package for the 2021-2027 MFF and the Recovery Instrument for the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. Second edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Coronavirus and elections in selected Member States

17-06-2020

With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, many countries around the world that were or are due to organise elections or referendums, have had to decide whether to hold them as originally planned, introducing mitigating measures, put them on hold or postpone them to a later date. When deciding whether to continue with elections or not, decision-makers have needed to take into account a variety of legal, technical and sanitary parameters and implications, as well as constitutional arrangements ...

With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, many countries around the world that were or are due to organise elections or referendums, have had to decide whether to hold them as originally planned, introducing mitigating measures, put them on hold or postpone them to a later date. When deciding whether to continue with elections or not, decision-makers have needed to take into account a variety of legal, technical and sanitary parameters and implications, as well as constitutional arrangements, to ensure that democratic institutions function as they would in normal circumstances and to ensure people's fundamental rights and freedoms are upheld. While postponing an election may be the most feasible and responsible option from the public health perspective, the decision may open the door to other risks, including undermining people's trust in democracy and casting doubt on the regular nature of elections. However, as experts suggest, democracy can also be undermined by holding elections during the pandemic, as their free and fair nature might be questioned. In order to protect election staff and voters, health and safety procedures can be built into election-related procedures, and special voting arrangements can be introduced, such as postal or e-voting, that allow citizens to cast their votes remotely. These entail other technological, security and social challenges, however, that need to be taken into account. This briefing provides example of how selected EU Member States have dealt with elections and referendums that were due to take place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Parliaments in emergency mode: How Member States' parliaments are continuing with business during the pandemic

24-04-2020

The coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by a huge array of public measures aiming to protect against and mitigate the consequences of the virus. While citizens have had to adjust to weeks of lockdown in their homes as a consequence of the emergency measures adopted by Member States, public institutions have been forced to move quickly to adapt their ways of working to a new and unprecedented scenario. These changes are particularly challenging for parliamentary institutions, as their functioning ...

The coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by a huge array of public measures aiming to protect against and mitigate the consequences of the virus. While citizens have had to adjust to weeks of lockdown in their homes as a consequence of the emergency measures adopted by Member States, public institutions have been forced to move quickly to adapt their ways of working to a new and unprecedented scenario. These changes are particularly challenging for parliamentary institutions, as their functioning is based on the principles of pluralism, deliberation and transparency. How can decisions be adopted on the basis of those principles if many members cannot attend parliamentary sessions owing either to the restrictions on freedom of movement and bans on public gatherings in virtually all Member States, or to personal health concerns? National parliaments in the EU have adopted a variety of approaches to address this challenge. Some have gone entirely digital, using remote technology to ensure all members can take part in parliamentary work, including voting. Others have opted to adopt parliamentary decisions with a reduced number of members while ensuring the balance of power between their different political groups. Some others, finally, have decided to adopt social distancing measures, allowing members to continue with their parliamentary activities from different rooms of the parliament premises or from another location entirely. Given the particular difficulties in travelling between Member States, the European Parliament opted for the first solution, holding its first ever digital plenary session, in which Members voted remotely using a new electronic voting procedure, on 26 March 2020.

Action for annulment of an EU act

08-11-2019

An action for annulment is a legal procedure before the Court of Justice that guarantees the conformity of EU legislative acts, regulatory acts and individual acts with the superior rules of the EU legal order. An action can be brought within two months of the publication or notification of the contested measure. Applicants are divided into three categories: privileged, semi-privileged and non-privileged. Privileged applicants – the Member States, Parliament, Commission and Council – may bring an ...

An action for annulment is a legal procedure before the Court of Justice that guarantees the conformity of EU legislative acts, regulatory acts and individual acts with the superior rules of the EU legal order. An action can be brought within two months of the publication or notification of the contested measure. Applicants are divided into three categories: privileged, semi-privileged and non-privileged. Privileged applicants – the Member States, Parliament, Commission and Council – may bring an action for annulment purely in the interests of legality, without proving any particular interest. Semi-privileged applicants – comprising the European Committee of the Regions, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors – may bring an action for annulment only to protect their own prerogatives. Finally, non-privileged applicants, comprising all natural and legal persons, including regional or local governments, may bring an action for annulment only if they prove that the contested act infringes upon their interests. More specifically, they may bring an action against an act addressed to them, or – if it is not addressed to them – if it is of direct and individual concern to them, as well as against a regulatory act that is of direct concern to them and does not entail implementing measures. The Treaty provides five grounds for annulment, i.e. reasons for which the Court may declare an EU act to be null and void. These are lack of competence; infringement of an essential procedural requirement; infringement of the Treaties; infringement of a rule relating to the application of the Treaties; and, finally, misuse of powers. If the Court finds the action well founded, it declares the nullity of the contested act, which, in principle, is considered null from the moment of its adoption. However, the Court may decide that some effects of the contested act should, nonetheless, remain in force in the interests of protecting legitimate interests and legal security.

Protecting the rule of law in the EU: Existing mechanisms and possible improvements

06-11-2019

Under the rule of law, governmental powers are limited by law and may be exercised only on the basis of law. An independent judiciary is indispensable to guaranteeing this state of affairs, and appropriate procedures, including legal remedies, must be in place to guarantee that individuals can protect their rights and trigger judicial review of governmental action. The rule of law has been an enduring basic value of the European Union from its inception, and the principles of the rule of law have ...

Under the rule of law, governmental powers are limited by law and may be exercised only on the basis of law. An independent judiciary is indispensable to guaranteeing this state of affairs, and appropriate procedures, including legal remedies, must be in place to guarantee that individuals can protect their rights and trigger judicial review of governmental action. The rule of law has been an enduring basic value of the European Union from its inception, and the principles of the rule of law have been enshrined in the case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The EU's very design is based on a shared responsibility for upholding and enforcing EU law, which is the joint task of the ECJ and national courts. The rule of law within the Member States, at least in areas covered by EU law, is therefore indispensable for the proper functioning of the Union and its legal system. Furthermore, the rule of law is one of the EU's fundamental values, enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, which must be respected by the Member States, including in areas not covered by EU law. Should an EU Member State be suspected of breaching the rule of law, a number of procedures are available to verify this and, if needed, remedy the situation. First of all, there are three 'soft' mechanisms, which do not give rise to legally binding results, yet nevertheless have a certain political resonance and can be seen as a preparatory step towards legal action. These include the transitional 'special cooperation and verification mechanism' (included in the Act of Accession for Bulgaria and Romania), the Commission's rule of law framework, and the Council's annual dialogues on the rule of law. Apart from these 'soft' mechanisms, three legal procedures are also available which, if concluded, can produce legally binding results. First of all, infringement proceedings can be brought by the Commission if the alleged breach could also amount to the violation of a specific rule of EU law. Secondly, national courts from a Member State in which the rule of law is breached may refer preliminary questions to the ECJ, seeking guidance on the interpretation of EU law with a view to assessing the compatibility of national legislation. Finally, the breach of values procedure can be triggered, possibly leading to the suspension of a Member State's membership rights. This briefing has been produced at the request of a member of the European Committee of the Regions, in the framework of the Cooperation Agreement between the Parliament and the Committee.

Role of Advocates General at the CJEU

10-10-2019

The institution of the Advocate General was introduced into the Treaty of Rome under the influence of the French delegation during the preparation of the Treaty. The French were staunchly opposed to allowing individual judges to present dissenting or concurring opinions, and instead proposed this be done by an Advocate General, a figure modelled on the French commissaire du gouvernement, who offers legal advice to the Conseil d'État on the cases being tried. Initially, there were two Advocates General ...

The institution of the Advocate General was introduced into the Treaty of Rome under the influence of the French delegation during the preparation of the Treaty. The French were staunchly opposed to allowing individual judges to present dissenting or concurring opinions, and instead proposed this be done by an Advocate General, a figure modelled on the French commissaire du gouvernement, who offers legal advice to the Conseil d'État on the cases being tried. Initially, there were two Advocates General – one French and one German. Over time, this number increased, and a number of Advocates General posts were permanently assigned to the larger Member States, whilst the remaining ones were 'rotated' among the smaller countries. Today, there are 11 Advocates General, six of these posts are permanently assigned to the larger Member States. Advocates General are Members of the Court of Justice of the EU, and are appointed under the same procedure as judges. They enjoy the same privileges as judges (immunity), and cannot be removed from office before the end of their six-year term of office. They may be re-elected. Unlike judges, however, they only have an advisory role and do not take part in the decision-making on cases. As a matter of principle, the opinion of an Advocate General is sought in every case tried by the Court of Justice (CJ), unless the latter decides that there is no new point of law. This happens in roughly 30 % of the cases each year. Even though the General Court (GC) has the power to appoint ad hoc Advocates General, it does not now apply this in practice. In contrast to CJ judges, whose opinions are written in a formal and terse language that uses standard phrases and wording often borrowed from earlier judgments, the Advocates General can choose their own style. Again, unlike CJ judges, they also consider the interpretive alternatives and various options of deciding on a case, before proposing their own solution. In the absence of dissenting opinions filed by the CJ judges, the opinions of the Advocates General therefore play an important role and are referred to in later cases. The CJ is not bound by these opinions; nonetheless, according to empirical research, in the case of an action for annulment of an EU act, the CJ is 67 % more likely to annul it if doing so was advised by an Advocate General. This Briefing is one in a series aimed at explaining the activities of the CJEU.

Hearings of the Commissioners-designate: Didier Reynders - Justice

26-09-2019

This briefing is one in a set looking at the Commissioners-designate and their portfolios as put forward by Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. Each candidate faces a three-hour public hearing, organised by one or more parliamentary committees. After that process, those committees will judge the candidates' suitability for the role based on 'their general competence, European commitment and personal independence', as well as their 'knowledge of their prospective portfolio and their communication ...

This briefing is one in a set looking at the Commissioners-designate and their portfolios as put forward by Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. Each candidate faces a three-hour public hearing, organised by one or more parliamentary committees. After that process, those committees will judge the candidates' suitability for the role based on 'their general competence, European commitment and personal independence', as well as their 'knowledge of their prospective portfolio and their communication skills'. At the end of the hearings process, Parliament votes on the proposed Commission as a bloc, and under the Treaties may only reject the entire College of Commissioners, rather than individual candidates. The Briefing provides an overview of key issues in the portfolio areas, as well as Parliament's activity in the last term in that field. It also includes a brief introduction to the candidate.

Reform of the Service of Documents Regulation

14-06-2019

In May 2018, the Commission put forward a proposal for amending the existing Regulation on Cross-border Service of Documents in civil proceedings. The proposal aims, above all, to replace the existing mechanisms of paper transmission with an electronic system. National information technology (IT) systems would be connected into one network, and the use of paper transmission would become an exception, available only in the event of a failure of the electronic system. Within Parliament, a draft report ...

In May 2018, the Commission put forward a proposal for amending the existing Regulation on Cross-border Service of Documents in civil proceedings. The proposal aims, above all, to replace the existing mechanisms of paper transmission with an electronic system. National information technology (IT) systems would be connected into one network, and the use of paper transmission would become an exception, available only in the event of a failure of the electronic system. Within Parliament, a draft report was prepared by the Legal Affairs Committee in October 2018, and in February 2019, the institution adopted its first-reading position on the proposal. Within Council, following an exchange of views between delegations and work at technical level, a policy debate is envisaged. Once Council reaches a general approach, trilogue negotiations will be able to start.

Revising the Taking of Evidence Regulation

27-05-2019

On 31 May 2018, the Commission proposed a proposal for a new regulation on taking of evidence in civil proceedings. It takes stock of the existing regulation (from 2001), but provides for a number of changes to remove legal uncertainty and to promote electronic communications. Parliament adopted its legislative resolution on the proposal on 13 February 2019. The main points of Parliament's position include modifying the definition of the term 'court', to mean any authority in a Member State that ...

On 31 May 2018, the Commission proposed a proposal for a new regulation on taking of evidence in civil proceedings. It takes stock of the existing regulation (from 2001), but provides for a number of changes to remove legal uncertainty and to promote electronic communications. Parliament adopted its legislative resolution on the proposal on 13 February 2019. The main points of Parliament's position include modifying the definition of the term 'court', to mean any authority in a Member State that is competent under the laws of that Member State to take evidence according to this regulation (i.e. not only judicial bodies). Parliament also considers that any decentralised information technology (IT) system for cross-border communication of evidence must be based on e-CODEX, and that the use of videoconferencing or any other appropriate distance communication technology should be subject to the consent of the person to be heard. Any electronic systems used to take evidence must also ensure that professional secrecy and legal professional privilege (lawyers' secrets) are duly protected. The discussion in Council is ongoing, thus trilogue negotiations on the proposal have not yet been able to commence.

Fight against fraud: Pericles 2020, Hercule III and AFIS

09-04-2019

Pericles 2020 is an exchange, assistance and training programme for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting. Hercule III is a programme aimed at supporting action to combat irregularities, fraud and corruption affecting the EU budget. AFIS is a collection of applications for the exchange of anti-fraud information between OLAF and national administrations.

Pericles 2020 is an exchange, assistance and training programme for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting. Hercule III is a programme aimed at supporting action to combat irregularities, fraud and corruption affecting the EU budget. AFIS is a collection of applications for the exchange of anti-fraud information between OLAF and national administrations.

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