"There are member states confronted with systemic problems where we have to use other instruments--such as with Hungary and Poland. In most member states, we have a dialogue that allows us to make progress. I have to say that the grand duchy, according to our last report, is really in the leading group of member states that organise this dialogue properly and implement reforms,” Reynders said to the members of the Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies.
Although the Rule of Law 2022 report was published last July, the European commissioner travels to member states to present it to them--as was the case for the last edition. The Luxembourg judicial system “is characterised by a very high level of independence and is very efficient. Previously Luxembourg did not have a Constitutional Council of Justice, but the important constitutional reform voted last December created it and this is very good news for the rule of law. This reform brings its composition in line with European standards,” he said. “The constitutional reform is already the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of last July. We will obviously pay close attention to its practical implementation,” Reynders stated.
On top of the positives he highlighted, the commissioner also had some recommendations for the grand duchy.
Faster access to official documents
Reynders pointed out "gaps that remain. Digitalisation efforts must be continued in all aspects of the judiciary, but also in terms of resources in general. There has been investment in additional positions, especially in the fight against corruption. All the authorities cooperate well with each other, so we must continue to work in this way and ensure that the public prosecutors' offices have sufficient resources. There is still room for improvement on pantouflage and back-pantouflage [a high-level public servant’s switch from the public sector to the private sector or the opposite] as well.” He already mentioned this during his last visit in November 2021.
In the next round of recommendations, there will be a will to “continue the work on the transparency register, on relations with lobbies,” he said, adding: “And in the area of the press as well, we insist on faster access to official documents for journalists. There are European rules and there is a possibility to strengthen this access, which must be done in Luxembourg."
Upcoming trialogues on due diligence
MP Charles Margue (déi Gréng), chairman of the Justice Committee in the Chamber of Deputies, for example said: "Concerning the proposal for a directive adopted last February by the European Commission on due diligence [a text that would push large companies to make sure that there is no serious violation of human rights or the environment in their production or value chain] and in relation to the access to documents, the minister for foreign affairs Jean Asselborn (LSAP) said that he was going to ask for the financial sector to be exempted. So my question is: how does the commission plan to move forward on this directive and would such exemptions be possible?"
The European commissioner replied: “For due diligence, we want to have a broad scope, including financial services, and we hope that the trialogues can start before the end of the Swedish presidency of the council of the European Union, as the deadlines to achieve adoption are short. We know the position of a certain number of member states, but we will see what the outcome of the debates is," he explained.
In any case, the 2023 report will be published in a few months' time, followed by a fourth visit by Reynders to the Luxembourg parliament to present it.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.