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Common values and the rule of law: cornerstones of EU action 


The European Union can promote wellbeing and prosperity and tackle the greatest challenges of our time only by acting together and defending its common values. The EU needs to protect the cornerstones of European integration: peace, security, stability, democracy and prosperity. Respect for fundamental values is indispensable if the EU is to be effective, acceptable and credible. 

At the core of the rule of law principle are autonomous and independent courts. During its Presidency, Finland will strive to improve and strengthen the EU’s rule of law toolbox.

Finland’s Presidency aims to

  • find better and more efficient ways to ensure respect for the EU’s common values in the member states and to forestall potential problems 
  • further develop the rule of law dialogue in the Council
  • pursue the negotiations on making the receipt of EU funds conditional on respect for the rule of law
  • fight corruption, which undermines the EU’s shared foundation of values and rules, public confidence in the authorities, and sound financial management.

The EU should also take steps to promote equality and inclusiveness in all policy sectors. Inequality clearly reduces human and economic opportunities in individual member states and at EU level. The EU needs a gender equality strategy which, in parallel with specific actions, would mainstream the gender perspective in all sectors and in all decision-making in the EU. 

General background: The European Union is a community of values 

Commitment to the European Union’s shared fundamental values is a prerequisite for membership of the EU. According to Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. 

Under the rule of law, all public powers always act within the confines set out by law, in accordance with the values of democracy and fundamental rights, and under the control of independent and impartial courts. 

Three milestones in the history of strengthening the EU’s shared values: 

  1. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was solemnly proclaimed by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in Nice in 2000. 
  2. The fundamental values of the European Union were enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Charter thus became legally binding. 
  3. On 3 April 2019, the European Commission issued a Communication on further strengthening the rule of law within the Union in order to trigger debate between the member states, the EU institutions and stakeholders. It is due to present its conclusions and proposals in summer 2019. 

Read more about shared values and the rule of law 

EU2019FI backgrounder: Strengthening the rule of law 

EU2019FI backgrounder: Strenghtening fundamental rights within the EU

EU2019FI backgrounder: EU’s gender equality policy for the future

EU in brief: Goals and values of the EU

European Parliament: Protection of fundamental rights in the EU