​​​​​​​EC Rule of Law Report: an opportunity for civil society engagement

The EESC welcomes the publication today by the European Commission of its second Report on the Rule of Law. Given the multiplication of challenges all over the EU, the Rule of Law Mechanism offered by the Report and subsequent debates is an important tool which allows all concerned actors to have a single framework of reference. This gives hope for a greater sense of joint responsibility in urgently addressing the rule of law especially independent judiciary and media freedom backsliding in Member States.

It is necessary and legitimate for the EU to act collectively on this matter: without the rule of law, the other EU founding values like democracy, fundamental rights and the respect for minorities cannot be guaranteed. Without the rule of law, there is no mutual trust which is at the heart of any international exchanges and the functioning of the single market.

The EESC trusts that the European Commission's Rule of Law Mechanism will be the basis for a coordinated joined response.

Since its creation in 2018, the EESC Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law (FRRL) Group has carried out country visits, during which it has heard a call by civil society to be better included in national and European debates in these areas. In 2019[1], the EESC proposed the creation of an annual civil society forum to foster awareness and exchange amongst civil society representatives from all Member States and other stakeholders. Such a forum could complement similar processes of engagement of the civil society in national debates. These inclusive debates would be essential to prevent the Rule of Law Mechanism from appearing as a technocratic and remote exercise.

Businesses, workers, Civil Society Organisations all suffer when the independence of the judiciary and other essential checks and balances are under pressure. But they should also all be engaged as part of the search for solutions. The EESC plays its part in the development of a solid collective culture of the rule of law. This is why the EESC created in June 2021 a web section which allows civil society to share their contributions in relation with the Rule of Law Mechanism and our country visits.

On 4 November 2021, the EESC will hold its second conference on fundamental rights and the rule law, gathering stakeholders in a discussion based on the two first Reports on the Rule of Law issued by the European Commission. The EESC sees the Rule of Law Mechanism as an opportunity to launch a wide and lasting process of engagement of the organised civil society. It believes that web section and conference can be building blocks in that direction and remains committed to develop a fully-fledged civil society forum to amplify the voices of civil society organisations.

Christa Schweng, EESC President and Cristian Pîrvulescu, President of the EESC Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law (FRRL) Group