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EU Commission’s rule of law reporting lacks transparency, auditors say

While EU auditors found that the European Commission ’s annual rule of law reporting lacks transparency and accountability, EU lawmakers have voiced concerns about its susceptibility to political influence

By: EBR - Posted: Thursday, February 29, 2024

More specifically, the Commission has room for “improving the evidence trail of the assessment process by documenting better how the Commission decides which inputs to rely on and which issues to report on, and how it assesses the seriousness of those issues,” the report reads.
More specifically, the Commission has room for “improving the evidence trail of the assessment process by documenting better how the Commission decides which inputs to rely on and which issues to report on, and how it assesses the seriousness of those issues,” the report reads.

by Max Griera

While EU auditors found that the European Commission’s annual rule of law reporting lacks transparency and accountability, EU lawmakers have voiced concerns about its susceptibility to political influence.

The rule of law report by the European Commission is an annual tool to scrutinise EU countries’ democratic health, introduced in 2020 upon request of the European Parliament.

However, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) indicated in a Wednesday (27 February) report that the current assessments lack transparency and documentation.

According to the ECA report, the Commission’s methodology available to the public “offers limited value” to interested parties, and there is space for the Commission to better explain publicly how it proceeds with its assessments to “increasing transparency and accountability.”

More specifically, the Commission has room for “improving the evidence trail of the assessment process by documenting better how the Commission decides which inputs to rely on and which issues to report on, and how it assesses the seriousness of those issues,” the report reads.

EU Commission ‘too diplomatic’?

In parallel to the auditors’ assessment, the European Parliament passed a resolution on 28 February scrutinising the Commission’s 2023 rule of law report, voicing concerns that the Commission may be influenced by “diplomatic” considerations when undergoing its assessments.

“The Commission, in its effort to be factual and even-handed, sometimes ends up being too diplomatic and imprecise when identifying rule of law problems in Member States,” the report reads.

According to the ECA report, EU countries “can comment” on their rule of law draft report before publication, “but they do not see the recommendations in advance, so do not have the opportunity to accept or reject them.”

The author and coordinator of the Parliament’s resolution, Dutch MEP Sophie In’t Veld, who was also one of the figures pushing for implementing the Commission’s rule of law reporting, accused the Commission of political bias on Wednesday (27 February) during a press conference.

“What we see happening now is that the European Commission is still letting political considerations come into play,” she said.

Speaking to Euractiv, the Dutch MEP noted, “Greece is really the country I’m most worried about at the moment”.

Greece’s rule of law recently came into the spotlight of the European Parliament, causing a fierce debate.

In a separate resolution last month, the EU lawmakers raised a long list of issues: Poor media independence and SLAPPs, the so-called “Greek Watergate” wiretapping scandal, which saw politicians, businessmen and journalists having their phones bugged with illegal Predator spyware, as well as alleged efforts to prevent the country’s independent privacy watchdog (ADAE) from shedding light on the case.

The resolution also criticised the lack of progress in the judicial investigation over several issues, including the Pylos shipwreck in which more than 600 people died, as well as the murder of the Greek journalist George Karaivaz.

“Apparently in the European Commission there is a (…) there is a reluctance to address these issues if the government leader in question is not a troublemaker in the European Council,” in’t Veld added.

Another example In’t Veld gave is Poland’s new centre-right government, which, after years of democratic erosion by nationalist Law and Justice (ECR), has quickly made amends with Brussels.

“Poland may have elected a new government that is firmly committed to the rule of law, but that doesn’t mean that the damage can be easily undone or that everything is fine,” she said, though acknowledging the new government’s plans to improve the country’s rule of law.

On 23 February, the European Commission unfroze €137 billion for Poland, previously withheld due to rule of law concerns, despite still having a long way to go to restore the damage.

*first published in: Euractiv.com

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