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EU parliament sues European Commission

October 29, 2021

The European Parliament has grown frustrated with the executive branch's inability to impose sanctions for alleged rule of law breaches by member states.

Ursula Von der Leyen and David-Maria Sassoli
The European Parliament called on the European Commission to "act in a consistent manner"Image: Dursun Aydemir/AA/picture alliance

The European Parliament on Friday launched a lawsuit against the European Commission over what it perceives to be a lackluster attitude in applying a mechanism linking EU funds to rule of law breaches among member states.

"As requested in parliamentary resolutions, our legal service has brought an action against the European Commission for failure to apply the Conditionality Regulation to the Court of Justice today (Friday)," parliamentary speaker David Sassoli said in a statement.

"We expect the European Commission to act in a consistent manner," Sassoli said. "Words have to be turned into deeds."

The discord relates to a mechanism in force since the beginning of the year that can be implemented which withholds EU funds from the shared budget among the bloc's 27 members.

Poland and Hungary spark dispute

The mechanism was set up amid escalating concerns relating to basic standards such as judicial independence and media freedom, in particular in Poland and Hungary.

However, it can only be activated if there is a clear risk of misuse of EU money due to such violations.

Before acting, the European Commission said it wanted to wait for an upcoming European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on the legality of the tool linked to legal action brought by Warsaw and Budapest.

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Poland summons ambassador

Meanwhile, Poland summoned Belgium's ambassador on Friday to express "disapproval and indignation" after Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo accused Warsaw of "playing with fire" as the dispute with the EU over the rule of law continued to escalate.

Ambassador Luc Jacobs was summoned to see Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek, the Polish foreign ministry said.

The ministry added that the De Croo's "public comments do not contribute to a good climate in Polish-Belgian relations."

Poland's parliament is set to vote later on Friday on a law banning Pride parades and other public gestures in support of LGBTQ rights. If approved, Warsaw will only distance itself even further from Brussels as the EU has already spoken of Poland's "violations of fundamental rights of LGBTQ people."

ECJ orders hefty fine for Poland

On Wednesday, the ECJ ordered Poland to pay a fine of €1 million ($1.2 million) per day over its decision to ignore an EU ruling on Warsaw's judicial reforms.

The top EU court imposed the penalty as Poland has not suspended the disciplinary chamber of its Supreme Court, which critics say allows for the dismissal of judges on political grounds. 

The ECJ had ruled in July that the chamber does not guarantee judicial impartiality, and ordered that it be suspended.

jsi/wd (AFP, dpa, Reuters)