Tag: ruleoflaw

Split EU Lawmakers Rap Bulgaria on Rule-Of-Law Failings | World News

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Parliament turned up the heat on Bulgaria on Monday as lawmakers debated a resolution that highlights flaws by the EU’s poorest member in respecting the rule of law, combating endemic corruption and supporting media freedom.

A vote is expected later this week on the resolution that challenges Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s governance after almost three months of anti-graft protests in Bulgaria that seek his resignation.

Thousands of Bulgarians have been rallying daily since July, accusing three-times premier Borissov of eroding democratic rules and allowing corrupt practices that support oligarchs and businesses close to his centre-right GERB party.

In a heated debate, lawmakers from the socialist party family, as well as the Greens and liberals slammed Bulgaria’s government for backsliding on democratic values and abuse of EU funds.

MEPs from the centre-right group EPP, to which Borissov’s own party belongs, defended Borissov as a pro-European leader.

Bulgaria ranks as the bloc’s most corrupt member state according to Transparency International’s index. The country has dropped to 111th position in terms of media freedom from 51st in 2007, when it joined the EU, according to Reporters Without Borders.    

“Bulgarian citizens will deal with their government, but we need to stop feeding the vampires that are sucking the life blood out these wonderful people,” said Clare Daly from the group of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left.

EPP chair Manfred Weber said the protests showed that democracy works in Bulgaria. Borissov has refused to step down and on Monday Weber said protesters could have their say at an election scheduled for next March.

A European Parliament resolution rapping Bulgaria for shortcomings in respecting the rule of law would have no practical consequences except political embarrassment for Borissov. But it would also be a signal that Brussels is not turning a blind eye.

Unlike Hungary and Poland, Bulgaria has managed to avoid a formal EU process checking if rule-of-law is observed, by promising changes and setting up bodies to combat graft and overhaul the judiciary, while dragging its feet on delivering results.

Last week the European Commission, in a milder tone, criticised Bulgaria’s shortcomings on courts’ independence and the lack of senior officials jailed on corruption charges in its first report on rule of law in the EU.

Speaking on Monday, the EU’s top democracy official, Commissioner Vera Jourova said the EU Commission would press ahead in monitoring Bulgaria until it sees tangible results in fighting corruption and overhauling of the judiciary.

“There is still unfinished business. And we want to see the job done,” she said.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; editing by Richard Pullin)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

Source Article

Continue reading

E.U. rule-of-law report angers Hungary, Poland

The release of the report coincided with a preliminary agreement by European diplomats to tie access to E.U. funds to respecting the rule of law, as negotiations on a $2.1 trillion E.U. spending package accelerate in the coming weeks. Defenders of principles such as an independent judiciary and a free press have accused the European Union of enabling illiberal leaders by failing to cut off the money that props them up.

“We are trying to open a new chapter in defending and promoting the rule of law in the E.U.,” said Vera Jourova, the bloc’s rule-of-law chief. “Deficiencies often merge into an undrinkable cocktail, even if individual ingredients seem to be fine.”

The European Union was founded as a club of democracies, but it has struggled to intervene over the past decade as leaders in Hungary and Poland backed away from democratic commitments.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has imposed stringent controls over his country’s judiciary, channeled public advertising funds to pro-government media outlets and squelched opportunities for opposition voices to operate within Hungarian society.

And since Poland’s Law and Justice party won power in 2015, it has taken steps to place political allies inside courtrooms, convert publicly funded media outlets into pro-government mouthpieces and threaten critics with legal peril.

“Poland’s justice reforms since 2015 have been a major source of controversy,” the E.U. report said. The report also characterized judicial independence in Hungary as “a source of concern.”

Both governments have already faced the threat of E.U. sanctions for their actions, but they have been able to use voting rules to defend each other and stifle significant consequences.

Each has complained about being singled out unfairly by fellow leaders for actions they say are legitimate because they were empowered by their citizens to run their countries.

In part as a response to those criticisms, the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, decided to assemble portfolios about every country in the bloc, cataloguing the state of corruption, checks and balances, justice and media freedom in sometimes dry legalese. Each country will face more detailed audits in the coming months and years.

Poland and Hungary came in for the toughest criticism, but the report also voiced concerns about corruption and the independence of the judiciary in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Romania and Slovakia.

Of those countries, all but Malta are former members of the communist bloc. But even countries with longer histories of democracy came in for some criticism: Austria, for example, was dinged for a lack of rules on how its government allocates its relatively high levels of state advertising to private media outlets.

Hungarian and Polish leaders both blasted the effort, saying they would found their own international rule-of-law institute to impose some counterprogramming on what they said was a biased message from E.U. headquarters in Brussels.

Orban on Tuesday denounced Jourova for an interview she gave to Germany’s Spiegel newsweekly last week. In it, she said: “Mr. Orban is fond of saying

Continue reading