Reaching its verdict last week, the European Court of Justice determined that the rule of law mechanism is compatible with EU law. Justice prevails – one could say, if we didn’t have to wait a year just to state something so obvious or if the European Commission wasn’t playing for time once again. All of this is now undermining the legitimacy of the EU as a democratic community… – press release by MEP Márton Gyöngyösi.
For many years now, the Polish and especially the Hungarian government have been ruffling lots of feathers in Europe by repeatedly questioning the EU’s fundamental democratic values while happily spending EU monies without proper safeguards (mainly in Hungary). Built on the good-faith cooperation among member states, an astounded EU has long been watching helplessly how these countries conducted their affairs.
Just as Warsaw and Budapest were turning more and more clearly against their own allies and making ever more distinct efforts to undermine the stability of the community, more and more European politicians hardened their resolve to do something about it.
Consequently, the rule of law mechanism was devised and introduced in January 2021. However, the Hungarian and the Polish government immediately turned to the CJEU in order to put off the implementation of the mechanism in a financially sensitive period. This move was vital for Viktor Orbán, especially because of the upcoming Hungarian elections.
What happened afterwards however, has unveiled the backdoor deals and democratic deficit that have been paralysing the European Union to this day. While Orbán and the Polish government were clearly making a fool of Europe and they had zero intentions to comply with any norms whatsoever, although they were more than happy to spend the money, the European Court of Justice took its sweet time to finally determine that the rule of law mechanism can be applied. In the meantime, Budapest and Warsaw kept conducting their usual practices.
All over Europe, the ruling was welcomed by many because they felt justice was served and hoped this long, dragged-out affair could finally be brought to an end, thus allowing for the punishment of those who trample upon the rule of law.
However, it might not happen quite so easily, since the European Commission’s first reaction to the ruling was that they would examine it, while EC President Ursula von der Leyen didn’t even show up for the European Parliament’s debate on the rule of law mechanism. I believe her absence is a tell-tale sign, to say the least.
Unfortunately, we must conclude that the express intent of the majority of MEPs, who got their mandates from the citizens of the EU, has been purposely and repeatedly blocked by the much more powerful European Commission, the members of which were appointed to their posts through backdoor deals and therefore have much less democratic legitimacy. These actions lead to increasing tensions that may ultimately undermine European democracy.
If, instead of serving the people of Europe, the Commission continues to silently take sides with certain member state governments despite their rule of law violations, one begins to wonder: do the other EU institutions believe in European democracy the way we do in the European Parliament?