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Europe Must Stand Up to Hungary and Poland

Summary:
The European Union cannot afford to compromise on the rule-of-law provisions it applies to the funds it allocates to member states. How the EU responds to the challenge to those provisions now posed by Hungary and Poland will determine whether it survives as an open society true to the values upon which it was founded. NEW YORK – Hungary and Poland have vetoed the European Union’s proposed €1.15 trillion (.4 trillion) seven-year budget and the €750 billion European recovery fund. Although the two countries are the budget’s biggest beneficiaries, their governments are adamantly opposed to the rule-of-law conditionality that the EU has adopted at the behest of the European Parliament. They know that they are

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The European Union cannot afford to compromise on the rule-of-law provisions it applies to the funds it allocates to member states. How the EU responds to the challenge to those provisions now posed by Hungary and Poland will determine whether it survives as an open society true to the values upon which it was founded.

NEW YORK – Hungary and Poland have vetoed the European Union’s proposed €1.15 trillion ($1.4 trillion) seven-year budget and the €750 billion European recovery fund. Although the two countries are the budget’s biggest beneficiaries, their governments are adamantly opposed to the rule-of-law conditionality that the EU has adopted at the behest of the European Parliament. They know that they are violating the rule of law in egregious ways, and do not want to pay the consequences.

It is not so much an abstract concept like the rule of law that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and, to a lesser extent, Poland’s de facto ruler, Jarosław Kaczyński, oppose. For them, the rule of law represents a practical limit on personal and political corruption. The veto is a desperate gamble by two serial violators.

It was also an unprecedented step, coming at a moment when Europe is suffering from a dangerous surge of COVID-19 cases, and it threw the other EU countries’ representatives into confusion. But when the shock wore off, closer analysis revealed that there is a way around the veto.

The rule-of-law regulations have been adopted. In case there is no agreement on a new budget, the old budget, which expires at the end of 2020, is extended on a yearly basis. Hungary and Poland would not receive any payments under this budget, because their governments are violating the rule of law.

Likewise, the recovery fund, called Next Generation EU, could be...

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