S&Ds call on member states to finally take the Article 7 procedures seriously when they meet today in the General Affairs Council and declare that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law and European values by the PiS-led government in Poland and the Fidesz-led government in Hungary. The Council’s failure to use the Article 7 procedure to enforce EU values where they are at risk, like the Parliament has repeatedly called for, is undermining the Union’s credibility.
The S&D Group is calling for clear recommendations for both countries and, in case that the breach persists, coming forward with the sanctions. At the same time, the European Commission must make immediate and effective use of each and every tool at its disposal to stop these breaches, including the new conditionality mechanism, without any more delay.
Birgit Sippel MEP, S&D spokesperson on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, said:
“It is shameful that a year and a half has passed without any hearing on Hungary and more than two years on Poland in the Article 7 procedures, especially given that the situation in both member states has seriously worsened throughout the pandemic. Despite persistent calls, the Council has sat on its hands, looking for any reason not to act. We know these hearings alone are not enough to turn these regressive governments around, so we need to see concrete recommendations coming out of today’s Council to correct and reverse the harm done by these conservative governments.
“The Commission also needs to finally wake up, assume its responsibilities and make effective use of the new conditionality mechanism. The Commission must stop using an alleged need for guidelines as a pretext to further delay any action and must start applying the regulation at hand. Furthermore, we are appalled by some of the stock responses from the Commission, like we saw last week in the response to Orbán’s proposed laws demonising the LGBTI+ community. We need to come out swiftly and strongly against any backsliding on EU values and there is no excuse for anything less. Orbán’s latest sneer at the European Parliament over the weekend is a sign that our determination to protect people’s rights is cutting through.”
S&D MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the rule of law in Poland, and chair of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, said:
“It is very difficult to cope with the Council’s inaction. It only encourages the PiS and Fidesz governments to continue down this current anti-democratic path. We call on member states to finally take the Article 7 procedures to the next level and declare that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law and fundamental rights by Poland and Hungary. In case that the breach persists, sanctions should follow.
“What more proof do we need? It is impossible to turn a blind eye to Kaczynski and Orbán waging an all-out war against the rule of law, independent media, women and the LGBTI+ community. Poland is even ignoring rulings from the European Court of Justice!
“There are worrying signals that a few member states would actually be eager to support Orbán and Kaczynski, in case there is a vote. We call on these countries not to do this and be on the right side of history!
“Finally, our House has already asked the European Commission a year ago to extend the scope of the Article 7 procedure in Poland and to include the state of democracy and respect for fundamental rights.”