EU: Values or Valuables? Time to Suspend Hungary, Poland

Sam Vaknin
Statue of the blindfolded goddess of justice Themis or Justitia, against an European flag, as a legal concept

Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The European Union is trapped by its own rhetoric. Its money and mouth are not on the same page, to mix my metaphors. It has yet to make up its mind whether it is mostly an economic union or a purveyor and custodian of values such as the rule of law and human rights. 

As it veers towards the latter, the august body has a tendency to issue idle and laughable threats against its own errant members. It is a bad policy. Carrying a big gun is half the trick – using it from time to time is indispensable. 

The latest – fourth-annual rule of law report spared no one, not even Germany. But, not for the first time, it singled out Hungary and Poland for censure. The European Commission will withhold budget funds to penalize both. Again, this is not unprecedented.

Poland is an egregious case, verging on authoritarianism. Last month, the European Court of Justice ruled that the country’s judicial “reform” should be repealed. 

In the banana republic that this country had become, the Minister of Justice is also the Attorney General. Judges are dismissed if they don’t toe the line. The supreme court of the land ignores ECJ rulings. Poland paid 360 million euros in fines in the past 3 years for this particular infarction. 

Polish judges who invoke EU jurisprudence are reprimanded and disciplined. A newly founded administrative commission can exclude opposition politicians from public office. The media is anything but independent.

In the understatement of this new century, the report concludes that “serious concerns persist related to the independence of the Polish judiciary.”

The right-wing obscurantist and populist Law and Justice (PiS) party is campaigning in the September general elections. Euroskepticism or even EU enmity are vote grabbers. Poland’s Justice Minister, a far-right stalwart, castigated the ECJ as politicized.

Why is Poland still a member of the EU in the wake of several identical condemning reports? Why isn’t it at the very least suspended? Because other members – including recently Slovenia and now Hungary – resemble it too inconveniently. The EU is no longer either liberal or democratic: it is merely cynical, deceptive, and delusional.

The report’s scorecard for Hungary is an instance of such hypocrisy. This polity’s parliament passed legislation to placate the EU, vowing to bring the hopelessly decrepit and corrupt judiciary up to EU standards. 

The Commission rejoiced in a self-congratulatory bout: 

“The new rules on the Supreme Court will contribute to the transparency of its functioning and will decrease the possibility of political interference.”

Alas, it conveniently forgot to mention the rampant corruption in the nexus between politics and law in Hungary. Not to mention the brutal emasculation of the other critical watchdog: the media. 

Hungary has been hitherto denied c. 12 billion euros in funds to no avail. No amount of money withheld will buy these members probity and healthy governance. Hungary is even blocking EU legislation in extortionate retaliation.

There is only one way to go about it: the EU needs to suspend members who hanker after Moscow and Beijing more than they care to imitate Brussels and Berlin. 

The EU is the reification of philosophy, the reincarnation of an ideology of liberal democracy at its fairest and best. Countries like Hungary and Poland taint and compromise this vision. They have no more claim to the EU than Turkey does. They should go their separate ways. They have no place in the EU.

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Sam Vaknin, Ph.D. is a former economic advisor to governments (Nigeria, Sierra Leone, North Macedonia), served as the editor in chief of “Global Politician” and as a columnist in various print and international media including “Central Europe Review” and United Press International (UPI). He taught psychology and finance in various academic institutions in several countries ( )