Sunday

13th Jun 2021

Opinion

We need to call Orbán's bluff by going ahead without him

  • 'Make no mistake: there is no technical solution to a fundamental political problem—whether or not countries should abide by the laws and treaties they signed up to when they joined the EU' (Photo: Council of the European Union)

By vetoing the EU's recovery financing, Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński are putting at risk the lives of all Europeans threatened by a needlessly prolongued Covid-19 crisis, as well as the livelihood of everyone whose job or business is harmed as a result, only because they want the EU to continue to fund their increasingly corrupt power grab.

We must not let them.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

While the instruments to tackle a government falling off the democratic wagon, the Article 7 procedure, has so far proved unworkable because fellow governments lacked the nerve to apply it, this time, they have an incentive not to shy away from their duty.

About €1.85 trillion-worth of incentives, in fact. They are incensed, and they are right.

And yet, you hear voices already calling for the European Council to give in to the Hungarian and Polish demands, by coming up with supposedly 'technical' solutions that would de facto allow them to veto any case against corruption or breaches of the rule of law in their countries.

If we want the EU to lose all credibility and, in a short while, have one or two well-funded downright autocratic regimes within its borders, that is the way to go.

Luckily, the EU Treaties provide other options. We need to call their bluff and we need to do it now.

Financing the recovery through enhanced cooperation of the 25 other member states is the way to do it.

In case of stalemate, European law (Art 326 TFEU) foresees the possibility for nine or more countries to go ahead by enhanced cooperation, within the framework and the spirit of the EU as a whole.

The euro is the best example: it is in principle the currency of all member states (apart from Denmark, which negotiated an opt out), but in practice went ahead with only the countries that apply the conditions.

This means we could finance the recovery fund by contributions and new own resources from 25 member countries, limited to the projects introduced by the governments of the 25 countries that apply the criteria, including a solid rule of law mechanism.

Like the euro, it would be open for Hungary and Poland to join once they fully accept and fulfil the conditions.

Like the euro, it would be run by the EU Commission in the interest of the EU as a whole.

And as foreseen in the agreement reached between the European Parliament and the German presidency, a proper mechanism would allow the commission to directly support citizens, businesses and NGOs in the non-participating member states.

Enhanced cooperation is the only way forward for the 25 heads of state, if Hungary and Poland continue to hold hostage their colleagues and blatantly act against the common interest.

It is legal, it is logical, and it is urgent.

Make no mistake: there is no technical solution to a fundamental political problem—whether or not countries should abide by the laws and treaties they signed up to when they joined the EU.

There is no compromise on fundamental rights and values—unless we allow the workings and the foundations of the European Union to be compromised.

Author bio

Guy Verhofstadt is Renew Europe MEP and former prime minister of Belgium.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Three EU exits from Poland and Hungary 'hostage crisis'

The EU institutions and member states have hardly more than two fully-fledged and one half-baked strategic option to solve this institutional crisis - that may have more far reaching consequences for the EU than Brexit.

What the EU public think of EU pesticide regulation

The EU is committed to reduce "the risk and use of pesticides by 50 percent" by 2030. However, given the level of controversy and public distrust surrounding EU pesticides regulation over the last decade, which reforms could garner public support?

News in Brief

  1. EU top court fast-tracks rule-of-law case to October
  2. Hungary's Fidesz wants to ban LGBTIQ content for under-18s
  3. MEPs join EU citizens on farm-animal cage ban
  4. Council of Europe urges Russia to release Navalny 'immediately'
  5. China's anti-sanctions law alarms EU businesses
  6. Airlines seek to water down EU passengers' rights
  7. EU leaders join call for further probe into Covid origins
  8. Liberal MEPs under fire over Babiš abstention

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU urges Poland to step back from 'legal primacy' clash
  2. Pressure builds on EU to back WTO vaccine-patent waiver
  3. EU anti-fraud agency cracked down on fake pandemic supplies
  4. MEP office expenses kept secret on dubious evidence
  5. What the EU public think of EU pesticide regulation
  6. MEPs set to take EU Commission to court on rule-of-law
  7. EU takes legal action against Germany on bonds ruling
  8. MEPs demand new EU biodiversity law by next year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us