Daniel Freund

30. September 2020 Anti-Corruption

EU Commission’s Rule of Law Report: Financial sanctions must follow negative diagnosis

Dear everyone,

The EU Commission presented its first report on the state of the rule of law in the member states today. Among others, Malta, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Hungary are diagnosed with considerable deficits. The report provides only limited new insights and often remains vague in its assessment of the situation. It makes no concrete recommendations for strengthening the rule of law in the European Union. The Commission’s report also explicitly omits the linking of EU subsidies to compliance with rule of law principles. This is being demanded by the European Parliament.

Daniel Freund, negotiator for the Greens on the rule of law mechanism in the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control comments:

“The initiative of the EU Commission is in principle to be welcomed. We now have a comprehensive report on the state of the rule of law in the member states of the European Union. Nevertheless, many of the systemic problems, for example in Hungary and Poland, have been known for years. And here the EU Commission’s stocktaking has remained quite tame.”

“I have visited Bulgaria and Hungary in the past months. Both countries have structural problems with rampant corruption, public coffers are being plundered, democracy and the rule of law are being systematically undermined. This is another reason for my personal assessment being more dramatic: The European rule of law is in a crisis. We urgently need the European Union to take decisive action when there are serious shortcomings in the rule of law. This means: A negative assessment must be followed by financial sanctions.”

BACKGROUND: Key excerpts from the chapters on Hungary and Bulgaria


  • “When serious allegations arise, there is a systematic lack of determined action to investigate and prosecute corruption cases involving high-level officials or their immediate circle.” (page 21 of the summary)
  • “The independence and effectiveness of the Media Council is at risk. (…) Independent media outlets face systematic obstruction and intimidation, while a trend of economic take-over of such outlets raises additional concern.” (page 21 of the summary)


  • “More generally, attacks against the judiciary are reported to increase without proper reaction from the competent authorities.” (page 6 of the summary)
  • “Nevertheless, important challenges remain, as also illustrated by the perception surveys that show a very low level of public trust in the anti-corruption institutions. Lack of results in the fight against corruption is one of the key aspects raised throughout the summer 2020 protests. A solid track-record of final convictions in high-level corruption cases remains to be established.” (page 6 of the summary)

The summary of the country-specific chapters can be found here: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/rule_of_law_2020_country_reports_2_web.pdf