The rule of law in the EU is at a critical juncture. Strengthening this area is one of the main priorities that Germany has set itself for its Presidency of the Council of the European Union. In addition to rule‑of‑law conditionality in the EU budget, Germany, together with Belgium, has created a completely new instrument, namely the rule of law dialogue. The aim here is for member states to hold constructive discussions on the state of the rule of law and to identify problems at an early stage. The focus is on prevention and the exchange of best practices.
Today’s General Affairs Council, chaired by Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth, was the very first time in the history of the EU that a country‑specific debate of this kind has taken place. The first countries to be examined were Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Estonia, in the order of protocol. The European Commission recently published reports on the rule of law situation in the individual EU member states, which are an important basis for today’s debate. At the most recent General Affairs Council in October, a horizontal debate took place on the situation of the rule of law in the EU in general. The next country‑specific debate is scheduled to take place under the Portuguese Presidency.
Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth said:
The country-specific discussion is a completely new element in the annual Council's Rule of Law Dialogue. The intention is to create a positive and constructive atmosphere, where problematic developments can be identified before it is too late and where best practices can be exchanged. We thereby want to establish a preventive dialogue and develop a common understanding on the rule of law, which belongs to the core of the EU‘s values.
Discussions about the budget, enlargement and climate protection
The adoption of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the recovery package is at a crucial stage. For Minister of State Roth, it is clear that these funds must get to the people who need them most urgently as quickly as possible. A further delay is not acceptable. The participants discussed possible solutions also at today’s General Affairs Council meeting.
EU enlargement was likewise on the agenda. In the spring, a decision was taken to commence accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Both countries are in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood and have made progress in reforms. It is in the interests of the Federal Government to start the accession negotiations as soon as possible with an intergovernmental conference.
Climate protection was high up on the agenda today in preparation for the European Council meeting in December, when the member states want to agree that the EU will reduce its emissions by 55 percent by 2030. This is a milestone on the road to a climate‑neutral EU in 2050, and is the only way to limit global warming to a tolerable level and to fulfil the obligations under the Paris Agreement. The Federal Government believes that the EU must continue to play a leading role internationally in the area of climate protection.