Europe's Bipolar Disorder

 

Ever since the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU has been more or less a single figure on a chessboard, especially when observed from outside of the Bloc. Yet it is not a secret that inside the Union there are a lot of issues on which Member States (MSs) cannot agree. Usually those disagreements are not much of a problem, as common ground is eventually found, with different levels of MSs’ satisfaction.

 

But recently the situation changed. Poland, known for its different views on how the Bloc should work, created a precedent when decided not to let in the number of immigrants that was set by the EU [1]. After this, Poland also introduced some law reforms [2] , that also attracted Brussels’ attention. The peculiarity of this situation is that Poland is going nowhere near Brussels’ demands. The result is precedential as well: Brussels initiated the Article 7 procedure [3]. This action has never been taken before, this Procedure, if executed, leaves the MS without voting rights. But the thing with the Procedure is that it requires unanimity between all other MSs. And this is where Brussels fell short – Hungary backed Poland and removed ammo from Brussels’ [4].

 

Another potential threat is cutting its subsidies from the EU budget. Being the main recipient of cohesion policy funds, this action could’ve inflicted a great deal of damage to Poland which relies on this money. But this initiative was opposed not only by Poland, but also Romania [5] and if this action was to elaborate, it would be no surprise to see Hungary standing out as well.

 

The more threats Poland gets from one side of the EU, the more support it obtains from its “allies”. Now this newly created polar consists of Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. MSs that were undecided which side to choose now incline more to their neighbors rather than to Paris or Berlin: on the joint press conference in March Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have confirmed that they are against imposing EU sanctions on Poland for alleged breaches to the rule of law [6]. Austria and Italy after elections that they held earlier this year are if not Poland’s allies but at least definitely not its enemies.  

 

On the joint press conference Poland-Hungary in January, latter’s premier minister Viktor Orban stated that 2018 would be the “year of great confrontations with Brussels” [7]. Looking back to this statement one can be sure that it is at least half true, because in June the crisis is still there it is more true than false. And Poland isn’t going to step away from its position. The dialogue exists, but it is not a dialogue of the Strong and the Weak – Poland works actively to show that they haven’t done anything that it might be punished for. Their White Paper that was sent to all other MSs in March is one of those actions [8]. In this Paper Poland is trying to persuade receivers that those controversial juridical reforms are in fact common practice in many other MSs.

 

European elections of spring 2019 gradually take shape into intra-European debates. Sovereigntist European leaders, as Matteo Salvini in Italy or Viktor Orban in Hungary are a major stake for the European Union: a new vision of the future of the Union is proposed inside the EU itself. This new polar including Visegrád Group, Austria and Italy, raises in favor of rigid external boarders and speaks out against the other polar, a more Western one, consisting of Emmanuel Macron or Angela Merkel [9]. Which polar is right? Should Europe turn East?

 

It is hard to predict where this crisis is going, but the existing situation is brand-new for the EU. Brussels now has to deal not with one country, but with the whole new polar inside the EU. There always were MSs that disagreed with some points in European Union’s agenda, but now those who disagree consolidate themselves, in a highly unusual situation. It seems that the very Bloc’s future is very much dependent on the final solution of this internecine conflict. In addition, while there is a dialogue, but no real common ground between sides, this future is highly unpredictable. One may wonder to what extent the East-West divide cannot be wiped out of the European debate, since this divide makes Central and Eastern European voice(s) heard.

                                                                                                                                                                            

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/polish-pm-rejects-eu-blackmail-on-migrant-quotas/

 

[2] https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/polish-supreme-court-slams-unconstitutional-pis-reforms/

 

[3] https://www.euractiv.com/section/central-europe/news/european-parliament-to-vote-on-atomic-option-against-poland/

 

[4] https://thehungaryjournal.com/2018/02/20/ruling-parties-call-on-the-government-to-support-poland/

 

[5] https://www.euractiv.com/section/eu-priorities-2020/news/romania-backs-poland-in-rejecting-eu-funding-conditionality/

 

[6] https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/baltic-states-against-eu-sanctions-on-poland/

 

[7] https://www.euractiv.com/section/eu-priorities-2020/news/eu-rebels-poland-hungary-show-united-front/

 

[8] https://www.euractiv.com/section/future-eu/news/juncker-will-assess-polands-warnings-against-triggering-article-7/

 

[9] https://www.diploweb.com/Synthese-de-l-actualite-internationale-de-septembre-2018.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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