The rule of law is a fundamental pillar of the European Union and strengthening it has been a central priority of Germany’s current Presidency of the Council of the European Union. As such, on 2 December 2020 EU justice ministers discussed the latest developments concerning the rule of law in European Union member states in line with the European Commission’s first annual Rule of Law Report, which was published in September 2020.

Germany has advocated for a new peer-review rule-of-law mechanism, comprised of an annual “horizontal discussion” on pan-European developments within the General Affairs Council, and a “country-specific discussion” based on the Commission’s Report, also within the General Affairs Council. The aim is to create a permanent preventive mechanism alongside existing reactive instruments.

In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in France, Germany and Austria, justice ministers also looked at ways to use judicial means to more effectively combat terrorism, such as:

  • stepping up the fight against online hate speech;
  • improving digital cooperation;
  • drafting a report on best practices for supporting victims of terrorism;
  • and conclusions on the European arrest warrant.

EU justice ministers also discussed the state of play of the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), and the Portuguese delegation presented its justice policy priorities in advance of its upcoming Council Presidency.