Poland and Hungary challenge rule of law clause

Poland and Hungary have launched a legal action at the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) against the new mechanism that links the payment of EU funds to compliance with the rule of law. The move comes as no surprise, as the EU heads of government made clear in December that the mechanism could only be implemented after it had been examined by the ECJ. In practice the tool stands to be delayed for years. How serious is the legal challenge?

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Le Soir (BE) /

The Poles' freedom is our freedom

Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, publishes a cry for help in Le Soir:

“History has shown what happens to states and nations that do not stand up for their democracies. If it is not steadfastly defended, democracy will be doomed to defeat. We will face many more challenges in the future. The Polish authorities are restricting the freedom of academic research, and are considering rewriting textbooks. They continue to normalise and glorify xenophobic and homophobic hate speech. ... Anyone who defends that most important of all European values - freedom - in Poland also stands up for the European Union, its project, and its promise, which remain a beacon of hope for us all.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The goal is autocracy

The lawsuit is just one element of a larger campaign by the Polish PiS government, observes the Süddeutsche Zeitung's correspondent Florian Hassel:

“Warsaw is also fond of attacking the EU in other ways: the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, which is now just a puppet, is soon to rule that in principle EU law means nothing in case of doubt, and that Polish law - or rather, what the government considers to be Polish law - means everything. It is a victory for the hardliners, PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński and Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro. They sell resistance to the EU as resistance to alleged encroachments on Polish culture, religion, traditions and the state itself, but they have only one goal: to eliminate the last remnants of the rule of law in order to rule autocratically without interference.”

Népszava (HU) /

Doing Brussels a favour

In Népszava's view the complaint also has positive aspects:

“The governments in Budapest and Warsaw are actually doing Brussels a favour with this challenge. The ECJ can now clarify in black and white how the rule of law and the EU budget are interconnected. In this way [the Hungarian and Polish governments] will no longer be able to constantly mislead the public or take further anti-democratic measures on the grounds that there are no precise criteria for the rule of law.”