Democratic standards in the European Union are eroding in several member countries, particularly in Hungary and Poland where judicial independence is under threat, the EU’s executive commission said in its annual report on adherence to the rule of law.
he report also singled out Slovenia, which recently took over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council, for attacks against the Balkan nation’s media.
“There are causes for serious concern in a number of member states, especially when it comes to the independence of judiciary,” said Vera Jourova, the Commission vice-president for Values and Transparency.
The review was published a week after the EU’s top court ruled that Poland’s way of disciplining judges contravenes EU law and undermines judicial independence, telling the country’s right-wing government to change it.
The European Commission has also started legal action against Poland and Hungary for what the EU’s executive arm sees as blatant disrespect for the rights of LGBT people.
The audit found Poland deficient in four areas reviewed: national justice systems, anti-corruption frameworks, media freedom and checks and balances.
According to the EU’s executive arm, reforms of the Polish justice system carried out over the past six years continue to increase the influence of the government over the justice system, damaging judicial independence. The report also pointed out a risk of “undue influence on corruption prosecutions for political purposes”.
Hungary was criticised for its perceived inadequate anti-corruption measures and the report noted that media pluralism “remains at risk”. The report depicted a bleak media situation in Slovenia, reporting online threats against journalists.
The EU has repeatedly warned that democratic standards are being challenged in Hungary and Poland. At a June summit, EU leaders strongly clashed with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban over legislation that bans the display of LGBT issues to children in that country.
Ms Jourova said the commission has asked Poland to fully comply with the ruling by August 16 or face financial sanctions.
“EU law has primacy over national law. All decisions by the European Court of Justice are binding,” she said.