One of the initiatives of the new European Commission is the establishment of an annual Rule of Law Report, part of the comprehensive European rule of law mechanism which will cover all Member States with objective annual reporting by the European Commission. The annual Rule of Law Report will monitor significant developments, both positive and negative, relating to the rule of law in Member States.
The European Commission has launched a consultation inviting stakeholders to provide written contributions to the Report, with the objective of feeding the assessment of the Commission with factual information on developments on the ground in the Member States.
Of particular interest to lawyers are the questions around the working of the justice systems. Greater emphasis is placed on the independence of judges, but questions on the independence of lawyers are also present, together with accessibility of courts, legal aid, use of assessment tools and standards.
The Rule of Law Report assumes a particular importance in light of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. While virtually all European countries have adopted temporary measures restricting the freedoms of their citizens, some countries appear to have used the crisis to expand the powers of the executive without posing clear time limits to these extraordinary measures. The Report, due at the end of 2020, will have an important role in the assessment of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have had on the respect of the rule of law in Member States.