On 10 February 2021, German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Katarina Barley of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“In its conclusions of 10 and 11 December 2020, the European Council adopted a unilateral declaration, which states:
‘2. a) […] the Commission intends to develop and adopt guidelines on the way it will apply the Regulation, including a methodology for carrying out its assessment […] Should an action for annulment be introduced with regard to the Regulation, the guidelines will be finalised after the judgment of the Court of Justice so as to incorporate any relevant elements stemming from such judgment […] Until such guidelines are finalised, the Commission will not propose measures under the Regulation.
2. b) ‘The application of the mechanism will respect its subsidiary character. Measures under the mechanism will be considered only where other procedures set out in Union law, including under the Common Provisions Regulation, the Financial Regulation or infringement procedures under the Treaty, would not allow to protect the Union budget more effectively’.
1. Has the Commission made a binding commitment in the context of the European Council’s unilateral declaration of 10 and 11 December 2020 concerning the above Regulation?
2. Does it consider itself legally bound by the above statements with regard to the initiation of proceedings under the Regulation?
3. When will the first proceedings against Member States under the regime of the Regulation take place?”
On 5 May 2021, Budget and Administration Commissioner Johannes Hahn, responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The Commission took note of the European Council’s conclusions of 10-11 December 2020 with regard to the Regulation on a general regime of conditionality for the protection of the Union budget and confirmed the European Council’s understanding that it is committed to these elements, to the extent that they fall within the remit of its responsibilities and in accordance with the Treaties.
As is usual with any new complex legislation, the Commission has started to draw up guidelines on the application of the Regulation. The Commission is aware that Poland and Hungary have challenged the validity of the Regulation before the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Commission will take the judgment into account, insofar as relevant, when finalising the guidelines.
The Commission is fully committed to enforce the Regulation as from 1 January 2021. All relevant breaches affecting the sound financial management of the Union budget and the financial interests of the Union after that date will be covered. At the same time, the Commission does not envisage to propose measures for adoption by the Council pursuant to the Regulation, before the guidelines have been adopted. If and when concerns arise, discussions with Member States will commence without undue delay.”
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