All of the arguments put forward by the Hungarian and Polish Governments seeking to annul the rule of law mechanism are unfounded and the case must therefore be dismissed, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice has ruled.
The Hungarian and Polish lawsuits had pitted the two rogue states against the European Council, the European Commission, the European Parliament and 10 Member States. The EU decree under dispute establishes a financial conditionality instrument to protect the values of the European Union.
The essence of it is that if a violation in the rule of law in a Member State jeopardizes the EU’s financial interests, any funds due to that Member State can be reduced, withdrawn, or suspended.
“This legislative decision falls within the discretion of the EU institutions,” wrote Advocate General Campos Sánchez-Bordona, stressing that “respect for the rule of law is fundamentally essential for the proper functioning of public finances and the proper implementation of the Union’s budget.”
The regulation requires a sufficiently direct link between the breach in the rule of law and the implementation of the budget, which means that it does not apply to all rule of law violations but only to those directly related to implementing the EU budget.
According to the Advocate General, the authors of the regulation ensured that any financial penalties would be borne by the infringing Member State and could not be passed on to the final beneficiaries who had no part in the violation.
He also mentioned that the characterization and description of the rule of law “meets the minimum requirements of clarity, precision, and predictability set by the principle of legal certainty.”
Following the announcement of the Advocate General’s opinion, Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi said in a statement:
The rule of law mechanism was devised so that EU funds belonging to the Hungarian people no longer fall prey to the Fidesz mafia, and protects them from Mészáros, Tiborcz, and other family friends who live a luxury life on public money. The rule of law mechanism is a guarantee that, after ten years of irresponsibly tolerating it, we will finally put a real stop at the European level to the systematic destruction of democratic values and principles.
Magyar Hang notes that the European Court of Justice will not be bound to the Advocate General’s opinion when it makes its ruling, but in nearly every case the judgment is the same. The date of the final decision is not yet known, but is expected early next year.
[Photo: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Nov. 2020]