Beyond the Rule of Law Conditionality: Exploiting the EU Spending Power to Foster the Union’s Values

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Table of Contents: I. Introduction. – II. Protecting EU values through ESI funds: The new fundamental rights “enabling conditions”. – III. Decentralising the “politics of values”: The potential of the Justice, Rights and Values Fund. – IV. The Recovery and Resilience Facility: Shaping Europe’s recovery in line with EU values. – V. Conclusions.

Abstract: In recent years, the EU budget has emerged as an attractive instrument to foster compliance with the fundamental values enshrined in art. 2 TEU. Especially following the exceptional increase in EU expenditure, the power of the purse seems to provide indeed more persuasive arguments compared with the existing EU rule-of-law toolbox. While most of the attention has focused exclusively on the rule-of-law conditionality regime ultimately introduced with Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2020/2092, this Article argues that the EU budget offers further, and arguably more promising, avenues to protect, promote and enforce the EU common values through financial means. Most notably, this Article explores the potential and challenges of the EU budget as a values-oriented policy instrument focusing on three elements of the new budgetary framework: i) the set of fundamental rights “enabling conditions” attached to the European Structural and Investment Funds, among which stands out an horizontal enabling condition related to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; ii) the “Justice, Rights and Values Fund”, with special attention to the reforms concerning the financing of civil society organisations; iii) the “Recovery and Resilience Facility”, which provides valuable instruments to police compliance with rule of law and fundamental rights standards thanks to its connection with the European Semester and the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Keywords: EU budget – EU values – rule of law crisis – conditionality – European Structural and Investment Funds – Next Generation EU.

European Papers, Vol. 7, 2022, No 2, pp. 697-719
2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/594

* Research Fellow, University of Rome “Unitelma Sapienza”,


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