The EU Must Act Fast to Prevent Its Demise – Conservative Article
Reading this title, you might think this was another piece by a Brexiteer. Indeed, after Britain voted to leave, many suggested that the European Union would collapse afterwards. But many of those people were laughed at. Just as the notion that the UK would leave the EU was laughed at. But now, the idea that the EU might collapse is beginning to be taken a little more seriously. Former EU Council President Donald Tusk commented that the collapse of the EU will happen if it could not prevent countries such as Poland and Hungary from damaging the bloc. This should act as a serious wake-up call for the other EU member states, who have so far failed to act.
Hungary and Poland increasingly find themselves sliding back into forms of authoritarianism, with the rule of law, social rights including LBGTQ+ and abortion rights, and the courts under attack from Viktor Orban and Andrzej Duda. This is extremely worrying. The EU was formed to protect against such forms of governance.
The EU has attempted to take a stand against this by linking its NextGen COVID-19 recovery fund to rule of law commitments. However, the anti-democratic pair stuck together and managed to force the EU to back down, winning an important concession. Rule of law sanctions will not be triggered until the EU Court of Justice has ruled on the legality of the new laws. However, this is a process that can take months, if not years, allowing Hungary’s and Poland’s autocrats to become even more entrenched. This shows the power that two states can have over the rest of the EU. This is also undemocratic within itself.
The latest step from Poland however signals that the EU needs to take a faster response. Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal Court ruled that Poland should not comply with EU Court of Justice demands. This is a serious undermining of EU law. Poland is now saying that it doesn’t take primacy over Polish law. It also undermines the concession the EU thought they had won. When the EU Court finally does make its decision, it means that it will be rejected out of hand by the Polish. No doubt Hungary will make a similar move.
This should be extremely worrying for the EU. It clearly is for Donald Tusk. But at least outwardly, there is little actual movement apart from words to stop this. And if this continues then Poland and Hungary will slide even further into an autocracy. It may even lead to the two countries splitting away from the EU. If this happens it will prove how ineffective the EU is.
The EU can’t even act against dictatorships within its own organisation. Thus, how can it hope to act against more powerful autocracies like Russia and China?
It would be extremely hypocritical if it condemned Putin’s practices when they are replicated in Hungary and Poland. Hungary is in the process of cosying up to Russia too. Orban holds twice-yearly meetings with Putin. Furthermore, Russia’s International Investment Bank has moved its headquarters to Budapest with significant perks, for example, all of its staff will enjoy diplomatic immunity. Orban is also cosying up to China, recently building a Chinese university in Hungary, which will be the first in Europe.
The EU needs to step up its game when dealing with internal dictatorships. If it doesn’t, it will be continually forced to concede to the dictatorial pair, showing weakness for Russia and China to exploit. Actions must be taken, and swiftly. If the EU does nothing, it is failing the people from Poland and Hungary. At the same time though, it can’t act with too much force. Or else it will also negatively impact the people it intends to help. Withholding funds is one way, but it can’t be the only way.
If the EU cannot solve its authoritarian problem and falls apart as a result, this would be a huge failure for democracy. At its very core, the EU should exist to protect against anti-democratic values (highlighted by the fact only democracies can join), and unless it quickly finds a way to resolve these issues then it is doomed to fail. The EU must realise that Hungary and Poland are dragging it to its destruction. And it must act fast to stop it.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
The next two years will be pivotal to deciding the EU’s future – A Liberal Response
Kieran raises some very serious threats to the stability and integrity of the European Union. The Polish and Hungarian governments are challenging some very fundamental building blocks of the EU – however, their citizenry remains on board with the bloc, especially their youth.
Admittedly, the most recent scientific surveys were conducted in 2019. However, they showed Poles and Hungarians have an 84% and 67% favourable view of the EU respectively. Only 14% and 25% have an unfavourable view. Of the 14 nations surveyed, Poland came out on top. The UK, in comparison, on the eve of Brexit had a 54%/44% favourable/unfavourable, which was still above the French whose presidential election in 2022 could see a resurgent Le Pen add new woes to the EU’s plate.
While the challenges to EU Law by the Poles and Hungarians are worrying, Tusk’s return to Polish Politics and the ruling coalition breaking down in recent weeks, there could be a swift realignment back towards the EU for Poland. Hungary’s future is less certain. Especially with the early successes of their vaccination campaign by bucking the EU’s plan in favour of Russian and Chinese vaccines. It demonstrated what Hungary can do when it goes solo. However, with one of the worst death rates in Europe and a faltering economy, Orban too might be out after a decade at the helm following parliamentary elections in 2022 – or at least his agenda dampened if new coalition partners are required.
Britain’s exit from the EU was both ideological and economic. There are few in Poland or Hungary who can deny that being a member of the trading bloc is hugely beneficial for them. Particularly Hungary as it is a landlocked country. No nation is ideologically homogenous. So the future relations between the members and the Bloc are no doubt going to be tumultuous. Take Denmark, which had the second-highest opt-outs after the UK and is the only nation left who is not obligated to join the Euro. So long as democratic institutions are untouched and transgressions challenged, the EU does stand a chance of surviving; its condition and integrity though will no doubt be altered.
Written by Junior Liberal Writer, Daniel Jones
The EU has worse problems – A Labour Response
For years now it has been suggested that the European Union is close to collapse. Whilst the growth of authoritarian politics in Hungary and Poland poses huge problems in the EU, I fail to see how this will result in the EU’s “destruction”, as Kieran suggests.
Firstly, support for the EU is the highest it has been since 1983. Two-thirds of Europeans believe that their country has benefited from being a member of the EU. In Poland specifically, support for the EU is very high, with a 2019 Survey suggesting that 84% of citizens have a favourable opinion towards the EU. I doubt that the slap of the wrist given to Poland and Hungary by the EU will massively impact their popularity: a new mechanism introduced last year allows Brussels to “withhold money” when there are violations of the “rule of law” and media freedom.
What I’d argue poses a more serious threat to the EU is the upcoming French Presidential election. A German academic recently claimed that “If Macron Fails, Europe Fails”. The results of the recent regional elections, where Macron’s party won only 7 per cent of the vote, suggest that Macron may indeed fail. His main rival in the upcoming election is considered to be Le Pen, an emphatic Eurosceptic who has called for a referendum on France’s EU membership. She also did worse than expected in the recent regional elections and faces an uphill battle for the Presidency. Regardless, there is no doubt that Macron has been a champion for the European Union during his presidency. His replacement is unlikely to fill that void.
Written by Deputy Chief Labour Writer, Brian Byrne