September 12, 2018 / 8:34 AM / 8 days ago

EU executive will get tough with countries breaking rule of law: Juncker

STRASBOURG (Reuters) - The European Commission will get tough with European Union countries that do not respect the rule of law, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday amid concerns that Poland and Hungary do not observe EU democratic principles.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers a speech during a debate on The State of the European Union at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

“The Commission will resist all attacks on the rule of law,” Juncker said in an annual state-of-the-union speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

“We continue to be very concerned by the developments in some of our Member States. Article 7 must be applied whenever the rule of law is threatened,” he said.

The Commission has already started a rule-of-law procedure, called Article 7, against Poland because of concerns over the independence of the country’s judiciary. It could ultimately end up suspending Warsaw’s right to vote in the EU.

The European Parliament will vote later on Wednesday whether to start the same process against Hungary.

Juncker also stressed all rulings by the EU’s highest court had to be respected, in an apparent reference to remarks by Poland’s deputy prime minister Jaroslaw Gowin who said that, if the ruling on the government’s changes to the judiciary was unfavorable to Warsaw, Poland could ignore it.

“We need to be very clear on one point: judgments from the Court of Justice must be respected and implemented. This is vital. The European Union is a community of law. Respecting the rule of law and abiding by Court decisions are not optional,” Juncker said.

Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; editing by Philip Blenkinsop

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