Which countries have a strong rule of law?

The rule of law in the EU countries is largely good

EU citizens are largely convinced that the legal systems in their countries are strong. In some member states, such as Croatia, a newcomer to the EU, the situation can still be improved and in certain points is even declining, according to the Commission's latest justice barometer.

The annual barometer of the EU Commission, the sixth edition of which was published on Monday, evaluates the independence, quality and efficiency of the legal systems in all member states.

"Democracy, civil rights and the proper management of EU funds are threatened without the rule of law," stressed the EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumer Protection and Equality, Vĕra Jourová, when presenting the results.

The Czech official underlined that the publication of the barometer comes at a time when the maintenance of the rule of law is one of the EU's top priorities.

Compared to previous editions, the so-called Scoreboard 2018 focuses on the independence of the judicial systems as well as on the role of the political executive and parliaments in the appointment and dismissal of judges and chairmen of the courts and the public prosecutor's offices.

Confidence in the judiciary is lowest in Croatia

The Eurobarometer data show an overall stable to improved perception of the independence of the judiciary among EU citizens. Denmark, Finland and Austria currently have the highest levels of trust in the independence of the judiciary. By contrast, Croatia, which joined the bloc in 2013, ranks last, just ahead of Slovakia and Bulgaria.

A good 20 percent of Croatians consider the independence of the courts and judges in 2018 to be “very good” or “fairly good”. That is ten percentage points less than the year before.

In Slovakia and Bulgaria around 30 percent believe in an independent judiciary in the country - an increase compared to around 25 percent in 2017. The main reason for the alleged lack of impartiality of the courts was primarily interference or pressure from the government and others Called politicians.

With withdrawal of money for the rule of law

The Commission believes that the recent judicial reforms in Poland and Hungary have brought about "only minor changes" in the perception of the independence of the judiciary.

But the EU continues to seek an antidote to the deteriorating rule of law in the two countries. "If a national judicial system is destroyed, even if it is only in a single country, (...) then trust will wane altogether," warned Jourová.

Presenting the barometer results, she recalled that the Commission had proposed a new rule of law mechanism with strong conditionality for the coming Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). This mechanism would link compliance with the rule of law to the disbursement of EU structural funds.

The Commission's proposal literally states that if deficiencies in the rule of law "affect or threaten to affect the sound financial management or the protection of the Union's financial interests, it must be possible to draw consequences for EU funding".

Decisions by the European Court of Justice, reports by the Court of Auditors and the findings of relevant international organizations should be taken into account when assessing compliance by the member states with legal provisions.

All countries accused of violations should then be given the opportunity to present counter-evidence before a decision is made.

While this option is now on the table, the proposal has yet to be adopted by the member states in the European Council and after consulting the European Parliament. Also in view of the upcoming European elections, it is questionable whether the idea can consist of such a vote.

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