There is both a functional and a normative case for defending values at the EU level. Deep integration—especially with a single market and area of freedom, security, and justice—requires intensive daily cooperation among governments and societies at every level. On the functional side, they need a common basis of principles such as legal certainty, prohibition of arbitrariness, independent and impartial courts, and equality before the law.
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The normative case is that countries, like individuals, can trust each other only if they share values of democracy and rights, because these define acceptable behavior between stakeholders. If that trust disappears, cooperation stops and integration unravels. The values listed in Article 2 are intrinsically linked, because violating rights usually involves violating the rule of law. The body of EU law relies on decentralized implementation and enforcement.
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Deep integration requires deep trust. This would create mistrust that undermines judicial cooperation—and damage the business environment in Europe, as the single market would no longer be a level playing field. Political influence over the courts would disrupt judicial and police cooperation too, as many judicial councils in other countries have stated. Such meddling would make other members reluctant to send their citizens for trial in that country under the common arrest warrant, as they are supposed to do automatically. Deterioration in the rule of law can make governments less disciplined about implementation of EU law.
In Hungary and Poland, the problem is not just about damage to the rule of law, but also about open defiance of legally binding decisions. Both governments are refusing to take in any asylum-seekers from Greece or Italy under the relocation scheme adopted in The risk of contagion is high: if you see your neighbor getting away with not obeying the law, your motivation diminishes to comply yourself. The EU faced a similar problem when Italy and Greece failed to fulfil their obligation to register refugees under the Dublin asylum system, for example.
Moreover, the EU is losing external clout.
Across its neighborhood and in the Balkans, the EU promotes improving the functioning and independence of the judiciary and reducing corruption through better rule of law. The European Commission has done well at setting out why the measures taken or proposed by the Polish and Hungarian governments contravene EU laws and values, and followed a consistent legal approach. Now the legal moves need political backup from the Council of Ministers when it returns to the issue in September.
Governments should intensify their bilateral diplomacy at two levels. In public, European leaders should issue unequivocal statements. They should not let U. Justice and interior ministers need to speak out, especially when the Hungarian and Polish governments make misleading comparisons to claim that their proposed legislation is similar to practices in other countries. If PiS and Fidesz do not back down, the European Commission and European Parliament will have to decide whether to go through with their threats to launch Article 7 1 by putting forward reasoned proposals on Poland and Hungary respectively.
If the commission puts forward a reasoned proposal and fails to gain the sufficient majority in the council, the EU as a whole will lose face and probably any hope of using Article 7 in the future. However, if Article 7 1 is successfully launched, meaning that the EU institutions agree that there is a clear risk of a serious breach, that would send a powerful political signal—even if mutual protection between Warsaw and Budapest makes it impossible to gain unanimity in the European Council to activate any sanctions.
All EU-level action must be well framed and communicated to avoid fueling nationalism and a sense of East-West divide. But it is different in kind as well as scale. EU actors must therefore explain why they have to protect core EU standards, and make it clear that steps will be taken against any government that undermines EU law. Strong statements from other Central European governments would be particularly helpful. The EU can also counter claims of double standards by getting tougher on bad behavior by member states across the board, particularly on corruption and misuse of public funds.
The next year will see new initiatives for EU institutional and policy reform as well as negotiations on future EU financing, which will open opportunities to introduce new instruments to protect the rule of law. There are plenty of options to consider. Most pertinent to the cases of Hungary and Poland are greater possibilities for judicial review by the European Court of Justice, to capture the cumulative effect of a series of infringements that creates a systemic challenge. Money matters too. This would be complicated to introduce, legally and politically, but it would have a powerful deterrent effect.
In the meantime, more rigorous enforcement of existing rules on misuse of funds would strengthen popular support for EU action against abuse of power and corruption in all member states. The EU has to become more active in countering false claims. Two-thirds of Hungarians have a favorable view of the EU , as do three-quarters of Poles. The EU institutions are running against the global trend by defending liberal values at a time of rising illiberalism and nationalism. If the EU allows two members to get away with reneging on core values, the contagion effect will be huge, both in the union and its region.
More governments will be tempted to override constitutional checks and balances, intimidate journalists and close down critical voices in universities and NGOs.
Members should remain free to decide on their own constitutional arrangements through national democratic processes. The rule of law is fundamental to this trust. The priority now is a sustained, targeted, and coordinated campaign by national leaders at two levels. The first is for EU heads of state and government to convince Budapest and Warsaw to change course. The Hungarian and Polish leaders have to hear tough words from national capitals expressing full support for the Brussels institutions.
Both governments need to know that if they do not backtrack, there will be a high price to pay. The ultimate hope for remedy lies with the tens of thousands of Hungarians and Poles who have been protesting against the attempts to capture their states. Follow the conversation— Sign up to receive email updates when comments are posted to this article. The "Liberal Democracy" set up in Poland in was a Yeltsin-style charade of a democracy.
The post-Communist SLD party was in time replaced in government by the post-Communist Civic Platform, while the media delivered a monolithic message - hardly surprising since the journalists were largely drawn from a post-Communist background. It was rule by the Old Guard for a kleptocratic elite that was largely drawn from the Old Guard. In the midst of manufactured stats showing economic success, two million emigrated. The Internet blew away the media monopoly.
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The masses revolted and Poland elected its first stable anti-Communist government, pledged to destroy the old networks of corruption and pledged to introduce a functioning social security system. In , k children only had meat twice a week Polish govt stats. Children were routinely taken into care from poverty-stricken households. This disappeared overnight with the introduction of child benefit.
The birth rate has risen. The economy has boomed. The massive illegal import of Russian fuel sanctioned at the highest levels has stopped. State-owned commercial companies have seen their near-bankrupt status turn to record profits. The near-bankrupt national airline LOT, which was being primed for takeover by Lufthansa, has just turned in a record profit - one year after a record loss. The budget deficit has turned to surplus as state-sanctioned theft stopped. Europe's biggest real estate scam worth billions - also including the defrauding of Holocaust assets - has been stopped and moves taken to undo the damage that led to 40, being evicted in Warsaw alone.
This fraud was perpetrated with the help of friendly judges. The head of our supreme court was appointed to her role with 6 years' experience on the bench. What you see in action is Poland rejecting economic colonialism from Germany, which included massive levels of corruption. What's worse for Germany is the specter of a formal request for reparations, a question which was never resolved.
The EU attempted a coup d'etat in December , which ended in fiasco. They make great use of Poland's internal enemies for external propaganda, but it has failed to bear fruits in Poland itself. Poland is the EU's shame - Poland's successful bid to stand on its own two feet despite decades of suppression will eventually be reported. The truth cannot be drowned out forever.
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Greetings from Brazil! I wish we could have polish leaders as the ones responsible for Polish renaissance. A country where values are not bent to economic power. Hail Poland! And shame on moron scholars shouting "rule of law" while hiding their bloody hands. The EU values is something that does not exist, it is just a tool.
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