Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have voted overwhelmingly in favor of suing the European Commission due to its non-implementation of a regulation linking EU funding with the adherence to rule of law in member states.

On Thursday, European lawmakers voted 506 to 150, with 28 abstentions, in favor of a resolution to take the European Commission, headed by Ursula von der Leyen, to the European Court of Justice. 

The motion relates to the EC’s inactivity on a new regulation which compels member states to adhere to the rule of law and democratic norms. Member states which fail to meet these requirements should be punished in accordance with the regulation, including by removing access to EU funds. The law has technically been in force since January 1.

“People in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere need to know that the Commission is on their side and will fight for their rights as EU citizens,” Green MEP Terry Reintke said in a statement, referencing concerns that both Hungary and Poland have eroded the rule of law in their own countries in recent years. 

“We are taking action against the Commission to make them do their job and defend the rights of European citizens,” he added.Both Hungary and Poland protested attempts to link EU funding with the rule of law within the EU’s €1.8 trillion budget, but eventually succumbed to pressure.

This was arrived at only after an amendment provided that sanctions under this clause could only be triggered if the European Court of Justice declared the mechanism legal, and that may not be decided until as late as 2022.

The two nations are under formal EU investigation for breaking the rule of law, notably for undermining freedom of the press and judicial independence within their borders, and could lose billions in funding if the new regulation is applied.

Thursday’s resolution gives the EC two weeks to act in order to stop the lawsuit. In the meantime, the European Parliament will make preparations for the legal action.

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