Civil liberties network report highlights decline of rule of law in EU News
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Civil liberties network report highlights decline of rule of law in EU

The Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) published its Liberties Rule of Law Report 2024 on Monday, in which the organization raised concerns about the declining state of the rule of law and weakening democratic checks and balances across the EU.

Liberties, headquartered in Berlin, is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that promotes civil liberties for all individuals within the EU. It comprises a network of national civil liberties NGOs from across the EU and is active in monitoring and safeguarding democratic principles and the rule of law.

The report, jointly drafted by Liberties and its national member and partner organizations, serves as a “shadow report” to the European Commission’s annual audit of the rule of law. It aims to provide the Commission with reliable information and analysis from various groups and offers an independent analysis of the state of the rule of law within the EU.

Key areas of examination include the functioning of justice systems, anti-corruption measures, media freedom and pluralism, checks and balances, civic space and human rights defenders, as well as systemic human rights violations affecting the rule of law.

One notable finding is EU governments’ deliberate weakening of legal and democratic controls over political figures. The report highlights issues such as politicized, underfunded, and unfair justice systems; half-hearted efforts to combat corruption and threats to media freedom and pluralism.

The report highlights an increasing trend among governments to hinder citizens and civil society from exercising their rights to freedom of association and assembly. According to the report, governments in France, Ireland, Romania and Sweden are shown to have taken actions or proposed legislation that pose genuine threats to civil society organizations (CSOs). According to the report, the revocation of charitable status under tax laws in Germany has significantly strained the finances of two CSOs. In Slovakia, the government has utilized fast-track legislative procedures to exclude civil society input entirely.

The report also notes that the right to peaceful assembly has faced a surge of restrictions in 2023. Several countries have introduced new bans on peaceful protests, often targeting pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Restrictions have accompanied these bans on freedom of expression, such as prohibitions on pro-Palestinian messages or symbols.

While the report acknowledges that rule of law violations in established democracies are serious, it emphasizes that these violations have not yet been executed systematically to undermine the rule of law and democracy in the EU as a whole.