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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 are enshrined in the EU treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The Charter has been legally binding since 2009.

  3. On 17 July 2019, the European Commission adopted a Communication on the measures it intends to adopt in order to reinforce the implementation of rule of law within the Union. The most important new procedure is an annual monitoring cycle to review rule of law developments in the member states, resulting in an annual rule of law report.

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