Unsafe precedent could be set by a court ruling that would deny Hungary or Poland access to EU Covid moneys.
Poland and Hungary now find themselves at the mercy unelected Eurocrats. The two are being accused of breaking European Union law. However, on Wednesday, European Court of Justice (ECJ), rejected their legal challenge to the mechanism that permits Brussels to withhold funds for member states.
Poland is alleged to be breaking the EU’s rule-of-law because of the lack of independence of its judiciary, and Hungary is claimed to be in breach on the grounds of corruption. The ECJ judgement stated that “The entire action brought forward by Hungary or Poland is dismissed by the Court,” and when it comes to democratic principles “These values must be protected by the European Union within its limits..” As a result, billions of euros of Covid recovery funds can now be withheld from Warsaw and Budapest.
However, this landmark judgment could have far more serious consequences than withholding these funds. It sets an alarming precedent by allowing the Brussels bureaucracy the power to withhold money from any member state that is not complying with the rules.
The EU is known for its desire to centralize power and siphon it from member countries. This is a fact that everyone can agree on. This is often done slowly and behind closed doors. Not this time, however, as this ruling represents an important change in the balance of power between Brussels and the EU’s member states.
The ECJ judgment makes it clear that the bosses are not democratically elected leaders. Instead, bureaucrats are accountable to everyone. It raises serious questions regarding democracy and accountability. Unelected Brussels officials now have the power to evaluate the actions of democratically elected governments and withhold money as they wish. It is an extremely dangerous development and flies directly in the face of the EU’s claims to be democratic.
In fact, this week even MEPs were waxing poetic about how determined they are to defend democracy in Ukraine. But it seems a bit hypocritical to say that, while they may be willing to defend the democracy of non-member states, they cheer on democracy when subverted in the EU. These MEPs are blinded to the obvious irony of their hate for Eurosceptic governments at Warsaw and Budapest.
Unsurprisingly, MEPs have demanded that swift action is taken by the European Commission, based upon the ECJ verdict. German Green MEP Daniel Freund tweeted, “It’s time to finally act against the rule-of-law violators in our union.” Similarly, another German MEP, Moritz Körner of the Free Democrats, said, “Now, the EU Commission has to fulfill its legal obligation and start the rule-of-law mechanism. No more exemptions must be granted to the EU Commission regarding the rule of the law..”
As the European Parliament has been calling on the European Commission to sanction Hungary and Poland for some time, it should be no surprise that MEPs are acting in this way. In October, the European Parliament filed legal proceedings against Commission for its inaction. While the MEPs might be proud, they need to remember that while this is Poland and Hungary who are being bullied by the EU, it could happen again.
And, most importantly, what has Hungary and Poland done to respond? You can’t lie down, that is the simple answer. The Poles have already indicated that they will refuse to acknowledge the decision, and Polish Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Kowalski said, “This marks the end of the EU, as we know. We must defend Polish sovereignty.”
The Hungarians, too, have denounced the ruling as a “Political judgement.” Moreover, last weekend Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced, “They are theirs [the EU], the rule of law is a tool with which they can mould us in their image… they are now fighting a holy war: a rule-of-law jihad.” This was perceived in some quarters as Hungary’s first step out of the bloc, although this was swiftly denied by Orban’s government.
However, it is clear that the relations between Brussels and the troubled twosome have reached a breaking point. Hungarians, Poles, and Hungarians are not content to appeal the decision. They will seek to increase the discussion about the legality of the ECJ’s ability to issue such a ruling. These cases could bring the entire EU legal system into disrepute. The stakes are high.
Eurocrats or federalist MEPs could be happy right now, but it is possible that they will not enjoy the last laugh. It often backfires when the EU exposes its dictatorial, undemocratic tendencies. You only have to look at the EU Constitution failure, and even Brexit. This latest judgement could represent another one of those moments when it oversteps the mark and experiences a democratic kick in the teeth, which will probably come first in April’s Hungarian general election.
Statements, opinions and views expressed in this column do not reflect those of RT.