London / Brussels. September 22, 2021
from William Horsley, Special Representative for Media Freedom
Today the AEJ joined 60 other journalists’ and civil society groups in issuing an open letter to top European Commission officials criticising what they call the often “fruitless” impact of the EU’s annual Rule of Law reports covering the 27 Member States.
Starting from next year, the signatories demand sweeping reforms to the Rule of Law mechanism to make it into an effective tool, with “real power” to protect media freedoms and prevent systemic human rights abuses across the territory of the European Union.
The message, together with a wide-ranging set of recommendations agreed among a host of civil society groups, is being sent to Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova, Commissioner Didier Reynders and the Cabinet of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
In the second and most recent annual report, the Commission claimed to have made progress by “deepening” its assessment of the conduct of Member States. It spoke of progress towards judicial reforms as well as “serious concerns” about the independence of the judiciary in some countries.
In response, the coalition of civil society groups complained that the Commission had pulled its punches.
In many cases, signatory organisations said, their efforts to monitor and inform the Commission about a range of systemic failings had been “fruitless and in vain”, because the Commission had adopted a “very narrow interpretation” of the rule of law.
The key civil society recommendations for the Commission’s future reports include making the public consultation process more open and inclusive, and robustly tackling issues like the state capture of public service media and repression of human rights defenders, which were downplayed in this year’s report.