Sassoli to EUCO: Democracy, freedom and the rule of law are not up for negotiation 
 

Extracts of the speech by European Parliament President David Sassoli to the European Council

President Sassoli today used his speech to the European Council to call for a robust defence of democracy and the rule of law. Sassoli was not physically present as he continues to recover from illness, so the speech was distributed to Heads of State and Government ahead of the meeting.

EP President Sassoli said:

“A few days ago, the legal bedrock of our Union was challenged. This was not for the first time, of course, nor will it be the last. But never before has the Union been called into question so radically. I believe that you, and all of us, need to hold a frank and open discussion on the direction we want to give our Union.

“The European Parliament has debated this matter in plenary. We listened very carefully to what Prime Minister Morawiecki had to say, but wish to stress that Poland wrote the European laws in force along with the rest of us. We made these rules together, so there can be no talk of them being imposed by the European Union. The European Union is based on everyone abiding by fundamental values and common rules, which we all voluntarily agreed to observe together. The citizens of Europe expect us to uphold these principles, and the citizens of Poland have marched in large numbers in Warsaw to remind us of that.

“We have together adopted an EU law that creates a close link between the protection of the EU budget and the respect of the rule of law. This law is in force and we believe that the procedure should now be launched in order to protect our budget and secure the respect of the rule of law. This is why I have asked the Parliament's legal services to refer a case to the Court to ensure that legislation is duly applied. We do not intend to shirk our institutional role in defending the basic principles on which the European Union is founded.

“We must be crystal clear that while our unity is indeed bolstered by our diversity, there is one aspect of our European pact that is not negotiable: our values of democracy, freedom and the rule of law.”

Sassoli went on to call for more support for developing nations in the face of COVID-19:

“We can be proud of the work we have done in tackling the pandemic. From a healthcare perspective, our continent is now ahead of the field on vaccinations, with over 75% of adults vaccinated. However, we know that this figure masks major disparities between Member States. These disparities are liable to undermine the recovery and the smooth functioning of our internal market, and hence we still have to take steps to address them.  Viewed on a global scale, however, those disparities become enormous. We are well aware there can be no end to the pandemic until vaccination is available to all countries the world over, and especially the poorest. Only 4% of Africans are vaccinated and COVAX has only received 85 million doses, despite the European Union and the United States pledging over a billion doses. We must commit as of now to delivering on our promise to share vaccine doses through COVAX or via the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism, because we know that no one is safe until we are all safe.”

Sassoli then turned his attention to the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow:

“In a few days' time, the COP26 will get underway in Glasgow. Parliament expects the European Union to reaffirm its leadership role and steer all the global partners towards clear and binding targets – revised upwards if need be – to remain in line with the Paris Agreement.

“We know very well that being the best will never in itself enable us to bring about the change needed to reverse the course of climate change. We can only do this by working together, and the European Union must take the helm in this era-defining transformation. This also means staying fully true to our word, in particular by ensuring that developing countries receive the USD 100 billion they need to be at the heart of this transformation.

“We know that as we undergo these major environmental and digital changes, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind.  We cannot afford to choose between social justice and the green transition.”

Finally, he stressed the need for the green transition to be taken into account in the reform of the EU’s economic governance structure:

“I welcome the Commission Communication on the future of economic governance after the COVID-19 pandemic. I think we should indeed launch a public debate on the issues raised in this document. In particular, we should together look at devoting more attention to the sustainability of public spending and encourage green investments so as to enable Member States to dedicate the necessary expenditure to the Green Deal and the green transition.”

The full speech is available here