Bridging the East-West Rift: EU to Implement Tools to Tame European Strongmen

Written by | Monday, April 30th, 2018

The European Union will implement a new financial tool to contain Europe’s strongmen that are threatening the EU’s democratic foundations. Following the big electoral victory of Hungary’s Viktor Orban and the battle to save the independence of Polish courts have raised concerns about the Union’s future after Brexit. The EU Commission is going to unveil its plan on Wednesday (2 May) as part of the 2021-2027 budget that will tie EU funding, on which Eastern EU member states rely, to the rule of law. Net EU financial support accounts for about 4% of public spending in Poland and around 7% in Hungary.

The proposal will essentially be introducing conditionality into the EU financial programs to tame those EU leaders that flirt with European values, promote illiberal democracy and attack open refugee policy. “This is much more of a threat to Europe than Brexit,” an EU official said. The details that are still being hammered out will likely be subject to tough negotiations. Some of the scenarios include the possibility of funds being withheld from countries that fail to abide by treaty obligations to respect the rule of law such as having independent courts.

The Commission is convinced that it has come up with tools that could silence critics. Some analysts argue that it is Mr. Juncker’s goal to heal an East-West EU rift before he steps down in year and a half. “East to west: Europe must breathe with both lungs. Otherwise our continent will struggle for air,” Mr. Juncker said in September as he talked about the intended policies for the rest of his mandate in what was described by some as “a love letter to eastern Europe”.

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