With a clear majority (506 in favor, 150 against, 28 abstentions) the European Parliament voted today (Thursday) in favor of launching an action for failure to act against the EU Commission. The triggering of the procedure follows a March resolution in which the Parliament had given the Commission an ultimatum until June 1st to use the mechanism.
Despite the threat of a lawsuit, Commission representatives had recently confirmed that they did not intend to trigger the mechanism before the fall of this year or even later. They want to await the outcome of a pending case before the European Court of Justice and draft internal guidelines for the application of the mechanism.
"The Commission keeps promising: 'No case will be lost. We have enough time.' But we don't have time. In six months, a new parliament will be elected in Hungary and EU funds will be misused by Viktor Orban to rig the outcome of the elections. If the EU Commission continues to remain inactive, if it continues to delay sanctions against Orban, this will have far-reaching political impacts. The Commission's inaction allows Orban to hijack free press coverage in Hungary. It is also contributing to the fact that elections in Hungary are free, but not fair. This is exactly why we are filing the lawsuit now! We want the Commission to finally take all measures to defend the rule of law and democracy. If it does not do that, the damage will be irreparable."
“We have an effective sanctions mechanism in place that is simply not being used. The European Parliament has given the Commission a clear deadline of June 1st. The Commission let it expire. This is not acceptable for us. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen must now decide: Either she fights with us for the rule of law - or she gives in to pressure from Poland and Hungary and continues to do nothing. It is now up to the Commission to avoid full confrontation and finally bring rule of law sanctions on the way."
Now that the resolution has adopted, the President of the Parliament must officially notify the Commission within two weeks. From then on, the Commission has two months to make use of the rule of law mechanism. Should it not act within these two months, the Parliament can then refer the matter to the ECJ within an additional period of two months. In order to proceed with this final step, a majority of the coordinators in Parliament’s Budget & Budgetary Control Committees and a majority in the Committee on Legal Affairs must vote in favor.
12. Regrets the Commission's failure to respond to the requests of the Parliament by 1 June 2021 and to activate the procedure laid down in the Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation in the most obvious cases of the breaches of the Rule of Law in the EU; instructs its President to call on the Commission within two weeks from the date of adoption of this resolution at the latest, on the basis of Article 265 of the TFEU to fulfil its obligations under this Regulation; to be prepared, the Parliament shall in the meantime immediately start the necessary preparations for potential court proceedings under Article 265 of TFEU against the Commission.