The European Commission’s annual rule of law report: From a monitoring tool to a comprehensive recommendations mechanism?

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Series Details PE 745.706
Publication Date March 2023
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In July 2022, the European Commission published its third annual rule of law report, which contains an individual chapter for each of the 27 EU Member States. In contrast to the rule of law reports from 2020 and 2021, this latest one makes country-specific recommendations to all Member States, something the European Parliament had been repeatedly calling for. This brings the rule of law report into closer alignment with the European Semester – as acknowledged by the third report itself. From originally serving a purely monitoring role, the report has now shifted to a hybrid role, of monitoring the Member States' observance of the rule of law, and providing recommendations to them in this regard.

Yet it remains to be seen how the Commission will follow up on its country-specific recommendations in this and future reports, and to what extent the Commission's findings, especially as regards shortcomings, will inform its policy on bringing targeted infringement actions to safeguard the rule of law. It is also unclear how the reports will link up with the ongoing preventive procedures to safeguard EU values (Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union) and the application of the (budgetary) General Conditionality Regulation. The third rule of law report was drafted using the same methodology the Commission applied in drafting the two previous ones, the one key exception being the addition of country-specific recommendations. The separate chapters (reports) dedicated to each of the 27 Member States cover four areas: i) the justice system; ii) the anti-corruption framework; iii) media pluralism; and iv) other institutional issues related to checks and balances. This methodology highlights the Member States' close involvement in the preparation of the annual reports and their follow-up. This briefing updates an earlier one published in January 2022.

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