Credit: CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2019 Source: EP

The EU’s attempts to browbeat Poland and Hungary should be opposed

The author, Dominik Michalik, is a Polish Citizen living in Dublin

In recent days there has been a move by the European Union to tie funding for EU projects to the “rule of law”. This has been widely interpreted – including by Guy Verhofstadt – to mean denying funding to Poland and Hungary because of perceived – and highly debatable – human rights violations.

It is a very bad move, and Poland and Hungary are correct to oppose it.

First of all one could ask what does the ‘rule of law’ mean?

Well, there is no one solid definition of it, one can define it as one pleases to do so. The general understanding is that the ‘rule of law’ means independent judiciary, free and fair elections and holding to account those who are in power.

Here is where the problem begins for example for a German MEP independent judiciary will mean something completely different than it will for a French MEP, they all agree that judiciary should be independent but every single one of them will try to achieve that in their own way.

Linking the EU budget to the ‘rule of law’ creates a dangerous precedent as there is no mention in the EU treaties that EU budgets shall be in any way linked to the ‘rule of law’, while yes the EU treaties do mention the ‘rule of law’ they fail to define it properly.

The ‘rule of law’ is mentioned in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) but it is not defined. In the past few days we have seen many left-wing and feminist movements claiming that the latest abortion ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal breaches the ‘rule of law’ that however is not the case – what it could, conceivably, breach is the human dignity and equality aspects mentioned in Art 2 TEU, but this is a separate matter.

Another issue when it comes to the ‘rule of law’ mechanism is the fact that there are proceeding against both Poland and Hungary under Article 7 TEU which aims to suspend certain rights from a member state.

If such proceedings are now in place then let’s ask ourselves why is the EU pushing for a rule of law clause in the EU budget? Is there something more behind this are certain ideological issues on the table? Personally I am not a supporter of either PiS or Fidesz but dismissing their arguments against the ‘rule of law’ mechanism being included in the EU budget would be irrational especially since the points they are raising are quite valid and right.

Of course there are, for example, issues in Poland with the fact that PiS has interpreted the constitution in a way that opponents say – and indeed I believe – to have been unconstitutional. But even then, this is a matter for the Polish courts, and the Polish people.

There is however one more issue here, too, which is the fact that many of the Polish councils which have passed the “local government charter of the rights of the family”, you might know it as “LGBT Free Zones” will not receive EU funding already.

In other words, the EU already has mechanisms to deny funding to authorities that breach EU rules. So why, then, is the EU trying to include ‘rule of law’ mechanisms in the EU budget if they already have mechanisms in place which can be used against rogue member states?

It is unnecessary, sets a bad precedent, and should be opposed.


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