Here is how Jean Claude Junker is striving to bridge unity in diversity within the European Union.
Next week, the European Union is set to deploy a new financial tool in am attempt to reign in what it sees as a rise of illiberal nationalism on its eastern front which threatens to destabilize its democratic foundations.
With Hungarians awarding Victor Orban a thumping victory in its Apil 8 elections, and faced with a battle to save the independence of Poland’s courts, alarm bells are ringing in Brussels on the future of European Union once Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.
On Wednesday, the European Commission is set to unveil proposals that aims to tie funding to respect for the rule of law, said EU officials.
“Conditionality will be there,” said a senior while a second source stated the budgetary pressure would be a “game-changer”.
“We have leaders flirting with another set of values,” said a third source in reference to Orban’s call for “illiberal democracy” and his attacks on an open refugee policy which he says is promoted by Brussels officials set on imposing a new “empire” on Hungary. “This is much more of a threat to Europe than Brexit.”
Budgetary details, which will be subject to long arduous negotiations, are being hammered in place.
Incidentally, the EU has funded more than 4% of all the public expenditures in Poland and more than 7% in Hungary; this is likely to play a significant role for EU membership to the two ex-communist states.
Under new proposals, funding could be withheld from countries which fail to abide and respect by the obligations of EU law.
As per people who are familiar with Jean-Claude Juncker’s line of thought, the European Commission believes it has a range of tools to deal with eventualities with Juncker wanting to heal the rift between the east and the west before he steps down in eighteen months.
The Polish and Hungarian Challenge
Officials from the European Commission believe Poland is likely to sufficiently back down next month on the reforms of its judiciary so as to avoid a follow through of threats, including budgetary cuts, by the European Commission.
“East to west: Europe must breathe with both lungs. Otherwise our continent will struggle for air,” Juncker had said in September while laying out his policies for the rest of his mandate, described by one of his aides as “a love letter to eastern Europe”.
“We will work hard to keep them hooked in to the system,” said another source. “With the right carrots — and sticks.”
Similarly, the European Court of Justice is also readying its toolset: a recent ruling has updated EU jurisprudence on judicial independence as its weighs the refusal of an Irish judge to extradite a suspect to Poland over concerns about fair trials in that country.
Furthermore, there is also a growing willingness within the EU’s political leadership to take their peers to task over the summit table.
“Where once we spoke about fish and finance,” said an EU official. “We are now speaking about fundamental values.”