As terrible as they are, crises also have a salutary side in that they provide an opportunity to take stock of an organisation’s health. As far as the European Union is concerned, the diagnosis is irrevocable; the lack of solidarity between Member States has had serious consequences on its image and functioning.
To combat the poison of national egoism, the Franco-German couple has been praising the €750 billion recovery plan, that was successfully achieved last July as an unprecedented demonstration of European solidarity.
Like many European citizens, I very much welcomed with this, even though it still raises a few questions. In addition to its repayment terms and the lack of a clear roadmap for the projects financed, conditions of its distribution are still missing. Indeed, would simply running the banknote printing plate at full speed ensure that solidarity would be guaranteed in practice? I have my doubts.
On the contrary, if we want the European Union to truly be a community of members sharing common values, we need to subordinate access to European funds to the respect of the rule of law.
Europe is not an ordinary international organisation. It is the result of a long historical process, of the will of a few builders who, united by the desire to preserve peace, have built an organisation based on strong values. Beyond that, it is also and above all a civilisation that we inherit, which has handed down certain essential principles to us. Although the current trend is to wipe out the past, the fact remains that the articles of the Treaties are meaningful and that respect for freedom of expression, plurality of the media and the separation of powers is the basis of our union and must be protected. The respect of democratic principles should therefore be a prerequisite to be able to benefit from the recovery plan or the European budget in general.
In order to ensure this control, I am convinced that a true European rule of law mechanism needs to be independent of the Member States, and above party political considerations. This is essential.
Such control would also help to overcome the inefficiency of Article 7. While this procedure should, in theory, enable the Commission to sanction a member who does not respect the rule of law, in practice it is automatically constrained by the need to reach unanimity. We can see this in the case of Hungary and Poland, but it would be just as true for states such as Malta or Slovakia, where rule of law concerns exist. Finding a solution to this original sin would be of great help in restoring the credibility of the Union.
All over Europe, citizens expect clarity and equal treatment. The EU has a card to play here.
This authored article was first published in the French daily newspaper “l’Opinion” on October 4.