Open Europe Blog

Yesterday, Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Justice and vice-President of the Commission, gave a speech saying she wanted to increase the EU’s powers to intervene in member states where there is a “rule of law” crisis. Citing the “Roma crisis in France in summer 2010; the Hungarian crisis that started at the end of 2011; and the Romanian rule of law crisis in the summer of 2012”, she said she wants to establish a “far-reaching rule of law mechanism, which would include more detailed monitoring and sanctioning powers for the Commission”.

Reding also chose to cite in her speech the arrest of David Miranda at Heathrow airport by UK authorities using anti-terrorism legislation.

Reding’s big idea is a treaty change to extend the reach of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into member states’ domestic legal systems and therefore the power of the Commission to intervene. She called for:

“A very ambitious Treaty amendment – which I would personally favour for the next round of Treaty change – would be abolishing Article 51 of our Charter of Fundamental Rights, so as to make all fundamental rights directly applicable in the Member States, including the right to effective judicial review (Article 47 of the Charter). I have raised this idea already in a speech at the FIDE Congress in Tallinn in May 2012. This would open up the possibility for the Commission to bring infringement actions for violations of fundamental rights by Member States even if they are not acting in the implementation of EU law. I admit that this would be a very big federalising step. It took the United States more than 100 years until the first ten amendments started to be applied to the states by the Supreme Court.”

Currently, the Charter can only be used to interpret how EU law is implemented in member states – the UK’s ‘opt-out’/clarification on the Charter was meant to reinforce this point in the Lisbon Treaty negotiations (that clarification hasn’t really worked).

Viviane Reding has long been one of the most far-out there EU federalists but this is a fundamental and outright challenge to national governments’ authority. This would be a good time for member states to remind Reding, Barroso et al what their mandate is. If member states are ever to rest back control of the EU, this sort of thing should almost become a sackable offence.

As someone put it to us in Brussels recently: every time Reding opens her mouth, Nigel Farage gains another thousand votes.

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