Safeguarding the rule of law in the European Union

From 27 to 29 January 2022 took place in Cluj-Napoca / Romania a seminar about “Safeguarding the rule of law in the European Union”, organised by IFES (Institutul de Formare Economică şi Socială), in cooperation with EZA and funded by the European Union.

The planned way to hold the seminar was disrupted because the Coronavirus 19 pandemic came with many restrictions, especially in regard of travel conditions through the European Union. For this reason, the participants were reluctant to travel in Romania as they initially wanted. So, the organizers changed the format of the seminar which became a hybrid one, with Romanian participants being in the seminar hall (14 persons) and with the foreign participants being on-line (18 persons from Bulgaria, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Czech Republic, Spain, Moldavia (as guests)). We ensured in the seminar hall the conditions of medical safety (wearing the mask in all indoor spaces, disinfectant, distance inside the seminar hall, rapid tests Covid).

The rule of law is one of the fundamental values of the European Union, enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. It is one of the core pillars on which the European project and the democratic values and fundamental rights it upholds are built, and is therefore essential to the future of the European Union. The proper application of EU law is the prerequisite for mutual trust, for the proper functioning of the internal market, for maintaining an investment-friendly environment and an attractive place to live and work. The reality in the EU countries is different in this respect. And especially in some European Eastern countries. Threats to the rule of law challenge the legal, political and economic basis of how our Union works.

It is also the perspective of the workers’ organisations. For sure it is a link between democracy at work and democracy as political process in society. The concept of democracy at work is not only beneficial for employees and employers but also for the economy and society at large.

The seminar aimed to explore the challenges to uphold the rule of law in the EU states, the needed steps forward in terms of policy-making and dialogue with citizens, the opportunity to increase a common view amongst social partners on the ongoing changes and their own influence.

The seminar start with brief reports from participants on the impact of the Covid 19 crisis on the labour market.  

During the sessions of the seminar have been discussed the following topics: ▪ Value-basis for the future of the EU: the rule of (European) law 

▪ How to communicate the main ideas of the rule of law.  

  • Achievements and threats on the democracy and the rule of law in the European Union member states.
  • The role of civil society for upholding the rule of law
  • Democracy at work and democracy in the society
  • Reflections on the rule of law and the future of the European Union. The role of the trade unions

Another very interesting moment of the seminar was the round table named How should the ideal European Union look like? All the participants were invited to figure from their perspective the way which should be taken by the European Union as a whole. Some ideas which came up:

  • EU shall take the leading role of monitoring and advising the members towards an improvement of the role of law
  • The trade unions are to be active in the society and explain to the members the mean of the concept;
  • The states must make available the resources needed for a permanent education of the citizens in the various aspects of a society leaded by law. As long the citizens are aware, the democracy is safeguarded.

The participants remarked that this kind of topic is not very often touched during the EZA educational program. And as the topic includes many aspects of the life of the workers (professional and personal), we noted the proposal that the topic shall be followed in other projects, in the future.

The information and comments on the situation were appreciated. There are particular problems on the national level, but there are also problems at the EU level. Both should be examined with the help of the academic environment and addressed by the representatives of the trade unions, other civil society organization. The help of the political representatives is essential in looking for concrete solutions and results. 

At the end of each discussion topics have been drawn conclusions relevant to the future work of trade unions organizations.