Thursday

9th Feb 2023

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.

Racist algorithms and AI can't determine EU migration policy

Artificial Intelligence in migration is increasingly used to make predictions, assessments, and evaluations based on racist assumptions it is programmed with. But with upcoming AI Act, the EU has a chance to draw red lines on the most harmful technologies.

EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid

While every European diplomat knows that a return to the "status quo" means maintaining the daily oppression, humiliation and anguish that comes with living under apartheid, the EU continues to acquiesce to a situation that gets worse by the day.

Column

Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue

All member states complain about European compromises, each for their own reasons. Nevertheless, these decisions tend to be robust precisely because there is enough in them for everybody. And nobody wants to start negotiating all over again for another deal.

Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'

The scars of Brexit have left their mark in communities across Wales. The Menai mussel industry has experienced a sharp decline having once been a staple in fish counters and restaurants across Europe; its business model wrecked by post-Brexit rules.

Column

Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue

All member states complain about European compromises, each for their own reasons. Nevertheless, these decisions tend to be robust precisely because there is enough in them for everybody. And nobody wants to start negotiating all over again for another deal.

Latest News

  1. MEPs agree to fossil loophole in EU green building directive
  2. Racist algorithms and AI can't determine EU migration policy
  3. EU leaders attempt to hash out response to US green subsidies
  4. Russian diplomats in EU: unpaid wages, low morale
  5. Eight EU states press for more Turkey-style migrant swap deals
  6. EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid
  7. Polish MEP also went on freelance Azerbaijan trip
  8. Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWWEU Social Dialogue review – publication of the European Commission package and joint statement of ETUFs
  2. Oxfam InternationalPan Africa Program Progress Report 2022 - Post Covid and Beyond
  3. WWFWWF Living Planet Report
  4. EFBWWEFBWW Executive Committee report on major abuses, labour crime and subcontracting
  5. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  6. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us