EU vs. Poland and Hungary: where is the conflict heading?

The new report on the rule of law in the EU once again focuses on Poland and Hungary: the EU Commission criticises cronyism in the distribution of EU funds in Hungary, restricted press freedom and discrimination against minorities. Poland has also been given an ultimatum to correct two court decisions that ignore ECJ rulings.

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Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Kaczyński won't yield

Gazeta Wyborcza fears that nothing will make PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński change his course:

“For him, the law is not a set of rules that those in power must abide by, but a tool with which to impose his will on others. The most important thing for him is the strength and political will of the head of state. Everything must be subordinate to him and the law must be adapted to him.”

Népszava (HU) /

Solidarity could soon be passé

Népszava believes the two countries criticised by the EU may take different paths now:

“The Hungarian government has already moved so far away from any democratic thinking that it will hardly be willing to compromise. It says we can manage without EU money. ... Warsaw, on the other hand, follows a different principle. Regarding the 'judicial reform' Poland seems willing to move closer to Brussels. Perhaps we will soon witness a split among the populists.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Division is inevitable

The EU is facing a dilemma, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Either it enforces its standards with all rigour and consistency against its own members, thus driving the wedge between East and West or North and South even deeper. Or it shows itself to be accommodating, tolerates dissenting positions and accepts violations of its own laws and rights here and there. The latter would not be without consequences: the bloc's claim to be a community of rights and values would be invalidated. This would inevitably lead to a departure from the goal of an ever closer union. ... The EU would become a looser association of interests of sovereign states. That would be painful for many EU politicians. But perhaps a more secure basis for the future of the Union.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Europe attacking Hungary's democracy

Luís Ribeiro e Castro, former leader of the right-wing conservative CDS party, writes in Diário de Notícias that the proceedings against Hungary pose a threat to democracy:

“Launched in the wake of the LGBTIQ agenda, a rushed action intertwined with the Euro Cup football championship, this is the worst offensive in recent years against the way democracy functions in Europe. ... It's possible that Fidesz's excessive power has inspired some countermeasures. But democracy works: Orbán has appeared before the European Parliament several times with a great deal of fair play and submitted to questioning. There are regular elections, and if there is to be a political change of power, it will happen at the local level, as in Budapest. ... The European institutions reek of malpractice and rot. They do not respect the democratic vote of the Hungarian people and are pushing Orbán into the far-right's corner.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Primacy of EU law non-negotiable

De Volkskrant analyses the reasons for the Commission's stringent approach vis-à-vis Poland's judiciary:

“[Poland's behaviour] is a direct attack on the EU. It is one of the EU's basic principles that the European Court of Justice is the highest authority in the interpretation of EU legislation. ... 'Poland and Hungary knew that when they became EU members,' officials say. Without a disciplining European Court of Justice, the EU is in danger of plunging into chaos.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Strengthen the democratic opposition

The EU must take effective action against Warsaw and Budapest before it's too late, the Süddeutsche Zeitung urges:

“Hungary and Poland, while adopting a confrontational stance vis-à-vis the community and its members, have unflinchingly pursued a dismantlement of democracy that is unprecedented in the EU since 1945. Now it is not just money that must be withheld wherever possible. Above all, the democratic, oppositional forces in the country must be strengthened. That this would be seen as interference and would only help the government is a myth. Hungary is holding elections in the spring of 2022. This could be the last chance for the country in a long time.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

Constructive debates practically impossible now

There is no more room for compromise in the EU, the pro-government daily Magyar Hírlap complains:

“The increasingly serious and spectacular conflicts between Hungary and Poland and the power structures of the European Union are signs that the narratives that dominate Europe today barely allow for constructive debates through which agreements could be reached that would make the EU stronger and more resilient. ... The EU is trying to impose a diffuse global system of goals on the member states as universal values.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Soon the dice will fall

Brussels will have to make take some decisive steps soon, Le Figaro predicts:

“The moment of truth is approaching, because a treaty-based community cannot survive a split. The EU will soon have to choose: purge or compromise? Ungrexit, Polexit, why not Rumexit and Slovexit - where will this end? If the rebels stay only for the money, it can't be ruled out that the EU would be better off returning to the 'core Europe' of the early days. But if the geopolitical gains of enlargement are considered more significant than internal strife, a modus vivendi combining prosperity and freedom must urgently be found.”