SAR Europe contributes to European Commission public consultation on the Rule of Law
On January 24, 2022, SAR Europe contributed to an online questionnaire as part of the European Commission’s public consultation to gather information on the rule of law across its 27 Member States. The information received will feed into the Commission’s 2022 Rule of Law Report, the third in a series of reports at the centre of the Commission’s new Rule of Law Mechanism. This yearly reporting cycle is intended to promote the rule of law and prevent problems from emerging or deepening across the European Union. SAR Europe sees this as an important opportunity to insert data and information on relevant infringements on academic freedom and university autonomy within this reporting process.
Academic freedom supports the critical debate necessary to hold states to account and forms part of the branch of society that serves to check the balance of power (See Ramanujam & Wijenayake 2022) While many EU Member States provide legal protection for academic freedom in their constitutions or through other legislation, and it is broadly anchored by Article 13 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research, (October 2020) and the Rome Ministerial Communiqué (November 2020), its implementation is far from uniform (See Karran, Bieter & Appiagyei-Atua, 2017). Moreover, monitoring of academic freedom within the EU is inconsistent. This has led to calls for greater accountability (See Statement from The Guild, June 2021), including from members of the European Parliament (STOA conference, November 2021). The Rule of Law reporting mechanism is an ideal way in which to monitor academic freedom across the EU Member States.
A resolution adopted by the European Parliament on June 24, 2021, called for the scope of the report to be expanded to explicitly include all aspects of freedom of expression, including academic freedom. These are welcome developments, for which SAR Europe advocated for, and will continue to do so. To ensure the report effectively captures challenges to academic freedom and threats to academics, students, scientists, and researchers in Europe, SAR encouraged wide participation in this consultation amongst the SAR Network. Participating in this consultation is especially important this year, as the 2022 Report will for the first time contain specific recommendations for Member States.