Members of the European Parliament debated the situation of democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU on Wednesday. The meeting was attended by the Vice-President of the Commission, Frans Timmermans and a representative of the Latvian Presidency. MEPs assessed what tools the EU has in case EU member states themselves do not meet the Copenhagen criteria.
As a prerequisite for accession to the Union, candidate countries have to meet a set of criteria, guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary system as well as the rights of minority communities. However, after a country joins the EU the situation is no longer monitored and the Commission has little to no framework for penalizing the member states that fail to meet these criteria.
RMDSZ MEP Csaba Sógor stressed the importance of the way in which institutions of the European Union, the Council and the Commission intend to deal with issues related to the rule of law within the Member States. The MEP pointed out that the EU institutions can only earn the confidence of the citizens if they openly and honestly address the issues that are of concern to them. “We openly express our views regarding a number of issues here in the parliament, but unfortunately the experience so far has shown that the Commission did not substantially address these issues, considering them outside of its competence, while the Council composed of representatives of the Member States was always reluctant to address individual cases” – stressed Csaba Sógor during the debate. As a minority representative he also emphasised that if a dialogue on fundamental rights is opened, the Council and the Commission must not only listen to views of the Member States, but also hear the complaints of traditional minorities.
Csaba Sógor expressed his opinion that Greece, France, Slovakia and Romania fail most in finding solutions to address minority protection issues, and that member states should be encouraged by the EU institutions to exchange best practices, even if some countries will not be happy about this. “Failure to start a real dialogue would equal to the EU admitting that it is unable to secure progress in the enforcement of fundamental rights”. Sógor was pleased to note that during the debate an increasing number of MEPS recognize the so-called Copenhagen dilemma and which is more, they call for stronger action regarding issues of human rights and the rule of law. Answering the concerns of MEPs, Vice-President of the Commission, Frans Timmermans explained: the rule of law and human rights are just as important as economic cooperation in the European Union, because democracy alone does not guarantee the respect for fundamental rights.