The European Commission's second-in-command presented the plans of the EU's new rule of law mechanism at the European Parliament.
Frans Timmermans gave an emotional history lesson about why rule of law matters.
"Every despicable sentence by Nazi courts was based on law. It was in fundamental contradiction with rule of law. It was in fundamental contradiction with fundamental rights. But it was based on laws. We have a choice in our history: either we have the rule of law or we have the rule by law. Then we are a dictatorship and we can no longer say that we are a democratic society."
Autocratic tendencies in Poland and Hungary prompted the EU to act.
In the package presented today, the Commission proposes the annual screening of member states, with serious legal and financial consequences.
Something what pro-government Hungarian MEPs see as a threat.
"There is not an objective definition of rule of law and in fact when we look at the democracies working in the EU, we see very different legal systems, we see very different political institutions, and they can all be democratic without one single definition. What we have been seeing is that it has been abused the issue of rule of law and used as a political weapon against some member states, Hungary and Poland especially," remarked Balázs Hidvéghi (MEP, Fidesz).
The new package needs approval at the European Parliament and EU member states.