Much of the rule of law community has found the EU rule of law mechanism wanting. They say it’s too politically ponderous (here’s Laurent Pech’s long list of the steps required) , and Hungary and Poland have forced the Commission to promise not to apply it until the Court of Justice has ruled on its legality. It’s as though they were French or Italian ministers accused of corruption, who remain at liberty while the very lenghty appeals process winds its way through sluggish courts.
But what about the case for the defence: Thu Nguyen of the Delors Institute, makes a defence of the rule of law mechanism, arguing that it’s established an important principle that funds can be withdrawn from rule of law violators, and, it reflects the reality that the Hungarian and Polish Governments could veto the budget. Read her argument here. Ivan Krastev also sees the long game, and defends the compromise in the New York Times.
The issue here appears to be time. What’s the point in establishing a slow mechanism for the future if the damage to democracy is done before it can control power-grabbing authoritarian leaders. But here at the newshound we think this isn’t quite right.
The real issue is politics.The defence of the rule of law is too important to be left to lawyers and the Court of Justice. It’s a political matter, and if the EU is to be a union of democracies, it needs the powers to ensure that its members stay democratic.
The recovery fund has changed the game. Now that we have common European sovereign debt, we need proper democratic oversight of how it’s spent. The Economist’s Charlemagne argued recently that the European Parliament “needed to kill a king”, in a coded suggestion for the Parliament to sack the von der Leyen Commission. We’ll leave that tactical question aside for now. But as long as decisions about the rule of law are made in secret, in the Council, by horsetrading between governments, Europe’s running an increasing risk of Orbanisation without representation.
Other things to look out for
Hans von Der Burchard in Politico reports on the Court of Justice’s next round against the Polish government.
Said court rules Hungary’s asylum pushback illegal.
The EPP find an excuse not to suspend Tamás Deutsch despite calling their associating Manfred Weber with the gestapo. They’re in danger of making the Republican Party look courageous.
And as expected the Hungarian opposition have formally agreed to join forces to defeat Orbán.