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Rule of Law: the EU’s chance to make things right

The UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe today launched its publication The case for a human rights approach to the rule of law in the EU. Respect for the rule of law, which is a precondition for human rights and democracy, is in decline worldwide. The phenomenon has found fertile ground in the unprecedented circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 14 May 2020
The independence of the judiciary, transparent and accountable governance, media freedom, and the separation of powers can no longer be taken for granted. Yet, so far, EU member States and EU institutions have appeared divided on the matter. As the EU embarks on a new initiative to deepen monitoring of the rule of law in its member States, the publication suggests drawing on the rich expertise and experience of the United Nations’ human rights machinery.

“Expectations are high as the European Commission prepares its first assessment of the rule of law in all EU Member States by September. The methodology applied and the indicators used to measure results, as well as the alignment of the assessment with international human rights law, principles and findings, will be key to the new mechanism’s success,” said Regional Representative for Europe Birgit Van Hout, echoing the Call to Action of UN Secretary-General Guterres to make better use of international instruments to meet the challenges, opportunities and needs of the 21st century.

“If the EU’s new rule of law initiative is robust, transparent, independent, participatory, and advances accountability, it could become a game-changer and a beacon for people across the EU.” The publication explores the inclusive methodology of the Universal Periodic Review as a possible model for the rule of law initiative and advocates for a greater role for the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency and independent national human rights institutions.

“Over the past decades, the EU has proven a formidable force for the advancement of human rights in its member States, in third countries and in the private sector,” said Van Hout. “What we want is for the EU to continue to be that force for good and to play its part in upholding the rule of law to the fullest.”