On 6 November, the Grand Committee of the Finnish Parliament issued a statement (SuVL 2/2019, in Finnish) on the Government's reports concerning the European Commission's communications to strengthen the EU's capacity to promote and uphold the rule of law and issues related to the rule of law during Finland's EU presidency.
The Grand Committee decided to support the Government's stance, emphasising certain viewpoints of the significance and strengthening the principle of the rule of law. One dissenting opinion was appended to the statement.
The Grand Committee's statement, the dissenting opinion and the Government reports (E 16/2019, E 17/2019) are available in the Parliament's online service.
The rule of law principle is a shared key value of the EU
The Grand Committee states that all activities in the EU are based on treaties approved voluntarily and democratically by each member state. The Grand Committee emphasises that the rule of law principle is a central part of the shared values that all member states have committed to respecting, upholding and promoting.
The Grand Committee agrees with the stance of the EU's new strategic programme, namely, that the shared values that form the basis of our democracy and society also form the basis of freedom, safety and wellbeing in Europe. Furthermore, the rule of law principle guarantees that these values are properly protected.
The rule of law principle is also an integral part of democracy and fundamental rights. The Grand Committee states that no well-functioning democratic constitutional state can exist without fundamental and human rights, and that securing fundamental and human rights calls for democracy and the rule of law, also referring to key principles of Finland's Constitution.
According to the Grand Committee, the rule of law principle also strengthens the trust of people towards the EU, cooperation between member states, economic growth, trade and investments.
EU activities need to be coordinated to strengthen the rule of law principle
The primary goal of the actions proposed by the European Commission is to find a solution that protects the rule of law principle by means of cooperation and mutual support. Its proposals call for more knowledge, the establishment of a shared rule of law culture, proactivity and reactions at the EU level if national mechanisms fail. Strengthening the rule of law principle is also one of the key themes during Finland's presidency of the EU.
The Grand Committee states that member states have the primary responsibility for ensuring that the rule of law principle is respected.
When actions are taken at the EU level, the focus should mainly be on the prevention of problems and on the establishment of dialogue and mutual understanding.
The Grand Committee supports the Government's stance that reactions, activities and the readiness to set up effective, proportional and cautionary consequences in situations where national mechanisms fail and threats directed at constitutional states become relevant need to be strengthened.
Furthermore, the Grand Committee holds that the European Commission's proposals for Rule of Law Review Cycle and Rule of Law Report regarding the rule of law principle are positive steps in the right direction. The Grand Committee also supports the Government's aim to renew dialogue concerning the rule of law principle during Finland's EU presidency in a way that makes this dialogue a general annual practice concerning the condition of the rule of law in the EU.
In addition, the Grand Committee states that it is vital that the EU's tools and actions aimed to strengthen the rule of law principle in different forums and political sectors support one another and form a coherent whole.
According to the Grand Committee, it is important that all member states be treated in an even-handed and consistent way. The Grand Committee states that mechanisms must continue to be based on an impartial approach founded on evidence.
Finally, the Grand Committee also renews its stance that legal proposals related to the EU funding framework for protecting the budget in situations where there are general shortcomings in compliance with the rule of law principle in member states are important in principle and support the rule of law mechanisms available in the EU (see SuVL 12/2018).