Brussels, 30 September 2020 – The European Commission has stopped short of recommending sanctions for EU governments guilty of a list of breaches of the rule of law documented in a new report it released today, said Greenpeace.

The report highlights a number of failings related to judicial independence and media freedom. But the Commission glosses over several troubling developments which are eroding democracy, affecting fundamental rights such as freedom of assembly, access to information and freedom of association. Greenpeace has raised several cases in a submission to the Commission in May this year.

Greenpeace believes that to successfully tackle climate breakdown and the destruction of nature, the EU must safeguard democracy in all its member states.

Greenpeace EU democracy policy adviser Ariadna Rodrigo said: “When it comes to defending democracy and the rule of law, the EU is all bark and no bite. While the Commission dithers, EU funds continue to support governments that harass opposition parties, repress independent judges, and imprison activists and journalists. This failure to act allows governments who make a mockery of the EU’s founding values to hold Europeans hostage by obstructing the EU budget or coronavirus recovery funds.”

In July 2020, all 27 EU governments agreed to make respect for the rule of law a condition to access EU funds. [1] How to implement this agreement has since become one of the main disagreements between governments in the Union’s fraught discussions over the EU budget and coronavirus recovery plan. [2]

The publication of the Commission’s rule of law report comes a day after Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán called for the resignation of European Commission vice-president Věra Jourová, the Commissioner responsible for the rule of law. Orbán has opposed any move to make access to EU funding conditional to respect for the rule of law. [3]


[1] Point 23, Conclusions of the Special meeting of the European Council (17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 July 2020):

[2] Politico, 28 September 2020: Germany seeks breakthrough on linking EU payouts to rule of law

[3] Vera Jourova’s mission letter, 1 December 2019.


Ariadna Rodrigo, Greenpeace EU democracy adviser: +32 (0)479 99 69 22, [email protected]

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, [email protected]

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Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.