Poland Challenges the EU
BSSB.BE Geopolitical Futures 06.06.2018
* George Friedman discusses how Poland and other European countries are at a point of confrontation with the EU.
The EU Commission this week released its proposed budget for 2021-2027, and with it, likely another round of dissension between Brussels and two of the EU’s most rebellious members, Poland and Hungary.
The budget, which will be hotly debated over the next few months, if not years, proposes linking EU cohesion funding – which supports economic development and investment in member states – to certain conditions such as the acceptance of refugees.
The commission separately proposed another mechanism that would tie access to EU funds to countries’ respect for the rule of law. In recent years, Brussels has repeatedly accused Hungary and Poland of violating EU norms and regulations, and these new measures are meant to compel members to fall in line or face financial consequences. But the EU’s ability to implement them, and therefore compel members to comply, is limited. If anyone has the power to force members to change their behavior, it’s Berlin, not Brussels.
The discord between the EU and Poland and Hungary came to a head following Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015. In an effort to spread the burden of taking in large numbers of refugees, member states were assigned quotas for the number of refugees they had to resettle.
- Hungary and Poland, as well as the Czech Republic, refused to comply with the quota scheme.
- Poland stopped accepting refugees after December 2015; Hungary had refused to accept the quota system from the very start. In response, the European Commission referred all three states to the European Court of Justice late last year.
- Brussels’ criticism of Poland and Hungary also involves some measures the two countries have taken over the past several years. Judicial reforms undertaken in Poland threaten the rule of law by allowing the government to interfere in the judiciary, or so Brussels has alleged. The EU has meanwhile criticized Hungary for violating freedom of expression for crackdowns on foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations and other institutions like the Central European University, which was threatened with forced closure.
If the EU wants to pressure these countries to change their behavior, threatening to cut funding, which is used for public investment in things like infrastructure and to support private sector development, is the best option at its disposal. Indeed, Poland and Hungary have both benefited from the EU’s structural funds since joining the union. In 2016, EU funds were 4.2 percent of Hungary’s gross national income and 2.1 percent of Poland’s. By the end of the 2014-2020 budget period, Poland is set to receive 100 billion euros ($120 billion) in structural, agricultural and other EU funds, the most of any EU member state.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: Geopolitical Futures