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Promoting and safeguarding the EUs values

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Promoting and safeguarding the EUs values

The EU is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities (Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU)).

ACT

Article 2 TEU

Article 7 TEU

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union - Respect for and promotion of the values on which the Union is based (COM/2003/0606 final of 15 October 2003).

SUMMARY

The EU is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities (Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU)).

Only European States which respect the values referred to in Article 2 and are committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the EU (Article 49 TEU).

Ensuring compliance with the fundamental values of the EU

Within the EU, the rule of law is of particular importance. Respect for the rule of law is a prerequisite for the protection of all the fundamental values listed in Article 2 TEU. It is also a prerequisite for upholding all rights and obligations deriving from the treaties and from international law.

THE EU RULE OF LAW FRAMEWORK

In March 2014, the European Commission adopted a new framework for addressing systemic threats to the rule of law in any of the EU’s 28 countries. The new rule of law framework is complementary to infringement procedures - when EU law has been breached - and to the so-called ’Article 7 TEU procedure’ which, at its most severe, allows for the suspension of voting rights in case of a ’serious and persistent breach’ of EU values by an EU country.

The framework allows the European Commission to enter into a dialogue with the EU country concerned to prevent the escalation of systemic threats to the rule of law. In preparing its assessment, the Commission can draw on the expertise of other EU institutions and international organisations (notably, the European Parliament, the Council, the Fundamental Rights Agency, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), etc.).

If no solution is found within the Framework, Article 7 TEU will always remain the last resort to resolve a crisis and ensure compliance with EU values.

Article 7 TEU

Article 7 TEU aims at ensuring that all EU countries respect the common values of the EU, including the rule of law. The preventive mechanism of Article 7(1) TEU can be activated only in case of a ’clear risk of a serious breach’ and the sanctioning mechanism of Article 7(2) TEU only in case of a ’serious and persistent breach by a Member State’ of the values set out in Article 2.

The preventive mechanism allows the Council to give the EU country concerned a warning before a ’serious breach’ has actually materialised.

The sanctioning mechanism allows the Council to suspend certain rights deriving from the application of the treaties to the EU country in question, including the voting rights of that country in the Council. In that case the ’serious breach’ must have persisted for some time.

APPLICATION

Since 2009, the Commission has been confronted on several occasions with crisis events in some EU countries, which revealed specific rule of law problems. The Commission has addressed these events by exerting political pressure, as well as by launching infringement proceedings in case of violations of EU law.

The preventive and sanctioning mechanisms of Article 7 TEU have so far not been applied.

Initiatives of other EU institutions

All EU institutions have a complementary role to play in promoting and maintaining the rule of law in the EU.

In December 2014, the Council and the EU countries committed themselves to establishing an annual dialogue among all EU countries within the Council to promote and safeguard the rule of law in the framework of the treaties.

The European Parliament has also at several occasions called for EU countries to be regularly assessed on their continued compliance with the fundamental values of the EU and the requirement of democracy and the rule of law.

See also the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) and the 2013 FRA annual activity report

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - 2012 Report on the Application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (COM/2013/0271 final of 8 May 2013).

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - 2013 Report on the Application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (COM/2014/0224 final of 14 April 2014).

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council - A new EU Framework to strengthen the Rule of Law (COM/2014/0158 final of 11 March 2014).

Conclusions of the Council and the Member States meeting within the Council on ensuring respect for the rule of law of 16 December 2014.

Last updated: 10.03.2015

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