Tuesday

1st Dec 2020

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.

The under-reported power struggle at the top of the OSCE

An internal power struggle has undermined the world's leading international security body since the summer. The OSCE is due to finally get new leaders in December but the unprecedented power vacuum has hit at a crunch time for hotspots worldwide.

News in Brief

  1. EU medical agency to decide on Pfizer and Moderna vaccines
  2. Euro-bailout fund to also help banks
  3. Trade unions urge date for pay transparency directive
  4. 33 governments must answer youth climate lawsuit
  5. US slams Hungarian article for Soros/Hitler comparison
  6. Sturgeon doesn't rule out 2021 Scottish independence vote
  7. Hungary's Orban and Poland's Morawiecki meet again
  8. Gran Canaria migrant camp dismantled

The human cost of whistleblowing

The fate of Jonathan Taylor, a British whistleblower stuck in legal limbo in Croatia, is a test of European laws designed to protect those who put themselves at risk for the common good.

EU vs US tech agenda under Biden

What will the new Joe Biden administration bring to the realm of digital policy, and how will it affect the relationship with the EU?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. China and Russia encircling divided Western allies
  2. Fish complicates last push for post-Brexit deal
  3. EU emissions down 24% on 1990 - but still off 2030 target
  4. Hungary must keep Russian vaccine within borders, says EU
  5. If EU is serious, it should use more US liquified gas, not less
  6. EU taxpayers in the dark on US corona-drug deal
  7. EU debates first names to go on human rights blacklist
  8. Lithuania bids to host EU cyber-centre

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us