The European Commission’s plans to reduce EU funding for countries which show a lack of respect for the rule of law need better criteria and clearer safeguards for beneficiaries of EU programmes, according to an Opinion published today by the European Court of Auditors.
The auditors welcome the initiative to protect the EU Budget from generalised deficiencies in the rule of law, which can have a negative impact on sound financial management and effective EU funding. They conclude that the proposed mechanism is more specific in its objective, scope and measures than the existing system, and faster to apply. But they recommend that the Commission should clearly specify its sources of guidance, and the criteria, procedure and extent of the measures should be more precise.
The Commission’s proposal for a regulation on the protection of the Union's budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States was made at the request of the European Parliament. Generalised deficiencies include: endangering the independence of the judiciary; failing to prevent, correct and sanction arbitrary or unlawful decisions by public authorities; limiting the availability and effectiveness of legal remedies; and limiting the effective investigation, prosecution or sanctioning of breaches of law.
“As auditors of the Union, our job is to protect the taxpayer’s money. We welcome the aim of the proposal, because we need a mechanism to protect the EU Budget against such contingencies.” said Annemie Turtelboom, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the Opinion. “But it needs to be improved, under the circumstances, it is all the more important that there are clear and specific criteria to base these measures on.”