In a surprise move, Didier Reynders, the Commissioner in charge of Justice, has announced a U-turn by the Commission in respect of the funding of programmes aimed at safeguarding the rule of law in EU member states, the so-called 'Rights and values' programme.
Previously, the Commission had said that it intended to cut funding to the programme by 20%. According to Mr Reynders, who announced the change during a webinar held by Liberal International about global rule of law issues, the Commission now recommends maintaining the same level of funding as initially proposed in May 2018 (841 million EUR).
Civil society groups have welcomed the move but say that it still does not go far enough and are calling for a substantial increase in funding to meet the multiple and growing challenges the programme is supposed to address.
In a letter addressed to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and President of the European Council, Charles Michel, as well as to members of the European Parliament and EU member states, Jean Marc Roirant, President of the European Civic Forum and Eva Kulik- Belinska, Executive Director of the Stefan Bartory Foundation said:
"We strongly believe that while facing the COVID-19 crisis, the EU must not economize on the defence of its foundational values and citizens’ rights."
The civil society leaders are calling for an urgent meeting with the Commission as soon as possible to discuss the various exigencies to which the Rights and Values programme needs to find a response.
In June, over 300 civil society organization including New Europeans wrote to the Commission to express dismay at the Commission's initial decision to cut the programme. The Commission's U-turn is seen as a direct response to these representations. Rad the letter here.
The European Parliament is strongly on the side of the campaigners and in 2019 voted to triple the programme's budget to 1.83 million EUR.