EU Grants & The Rule of Law… or Lawlessness

The EU is close to a compromise on linking EU funds to respecting the Rule of Law, and we are all waiting here in the north to see what Parliament and the EU Council can agree on. So far it appears that a watered-down compromise is on the books, and that will not be well received here.

Linking the EU grants to the Rule of Law has been strongly opposed by Hungary and Poland, who  have threatened to block the recovery package over the issue. This is a major sticking point for the EU’s new 7 year budget negotiations.

MEPs in the EU Parliament have pushed for a link between democracy and fundamental rights and the suspension of grants but these two countries want it to have only a narrow focus on fraud and corruption, meaning that their politicised legal system makes the decisions on fraud or corruption of the same politicians who appointed the judges! To be accepted any such process needs to be based on EU’s main values and principles, and not on those of tin-pot leaders.

The European Council president, Charles Michel, has said that a qualified majority of member states should be needed to initiate sanctions. But the rule-of-law issue is linked to parallel talks on the budget and recovery package making it difficult for the German EU presidency to find a  compromise that could emerge on Thursday. It is forced to walk between those rejecting the new tool and those who advocate for a strong mechanism, such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. 

Many here in the Nordics are asking why should we support undemocratic behaviour with our hard-earned tax money? We did not get any handouts after the Second World War and had to work hard to establish our democratic welfare states that operate now at the highest levels of honesty and transparency. If Poland and Hungary want these grants from us then they only have to reform. This is like the UK wanting to have their cake and eat it with Brexit! 

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