The change is significant because the European Union has so far not had a credible tool to halt the continuing worrying trend of democratic setback: the struggle for the independence of the judiciary and free media, or attacks on independent civil society. All current EU mechanisms were either based on consensus or too narrow in scope – they referred to individual cases instead of systemic problems.
The fact that Viktor Orban and Mateusz Morawiecki (the Prime Ministers of Hungary and Poland) threatened to bet on the entire European Union budget and the stimulus fund is, in fact, the best sign that this new tool is really working.
This EU debate is often wrongly described as an East-West divide or a struggle between the European Union and Hungary and Poland. In fact, there is nothing Hungarian or Polish other than protecting money for ordinary citizens of the Member States. This money is for small businesses in difficulty and local authorities. It was never meant to disappear into friends ’pockets.
If you travel to a small Hungarian town and ask about the benefits of European Union funds, he is referring to a renovated road or school building. The EU is often the only source of public investment that these severely underdeveloped regions have seen for decades.
But the same citizens also bitterly remember stories of EU money flowing into the pockets of local oligarchs, in many cases to family members of Viktor Orbán. They also specify how EU money will be used directly for blackmail: when government officials threaten to cut funds if voters elect local opposition candidates.
The European Commission’s recent rule of law in Hungary stated that “there is no systematic and determined action to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption involving high-level officials or those close to them”. The 2019 report of the EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) found that financial irregularities in Hungary are ten times higher than the EU average.
European leaders, including right-wing politicians, have dedicated countless reports and many actors to sheep corruption. The misuse of taxpayers’ money is a frequent topic of discussion on the Eurosceptic right. The rule of law mechanism provides an opportunity to turn these words into practice. It is quite strange to see that many of the same political forces, even in Finland, reject the rule of law mechanism and encourage Viktor Orban’s veto.
For Finns, this mechanism is not indifferent either. Respect for fundamental values is essential for peace, security, stability and prosperity, for all the reasons why Finland, a small nation far away in northern Europe, joined the Union in the first place possible.
It is for this reason that opinion polls show that 77% of all Europeans are in favor of the rule of law mechanism. Behind this number are millions of Europeans from all corners of the continent and from all political connections, tired of corruption scandals and obstructionist politicians, who believe that respect for our common EU values, all agreed upon when joining the club, is the minimum in all interests.
Katalin Cseh and Elsi Katainen
Katalin Cseh is a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament representing the Momentum Movement, a shadow negotiator for the rule of law mechanism in the European Parliament and Vice-Chair of the Renew Europe Group. Elsi Katainen is a Finnish member of the European Parliament and head of the Central Party delegations in the Renewable Europe group.
This is the “perspective” column of opinion. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the authors. Helsinki Times.
Source: The Nordic Page