EU: Expert discusses ‘long term challenge’ of rule of law

The battle over rule of law has been described as a “long-term challenge” facing Poland and the European Union, according to the Vice-President of the Civil Development Forum Marek Tatala. Poland is increasingly being viewed as a troublemaker within EU, with the country, together with Hungary, accused of adopting authoritarian governing styles. The ruling Law and Justice Party in Warsaw have used sweeping reforms in an attempt to interfere with the country’s judiciary, sparking anger from Brussels. 

Mr Tatala told TRT’s roundtable: “Challenges for the rule of law in Poland started in 2015, I think the problem is even older in Hungary with what Victor Orban’s government was doing.

“So this is a long-term challenge that Poland is facing. We still have at least three years of this government and I think the EU should also think about this problem with a long-term perspective.

“This is about the long-term survival of the EU as a club of countries that accept similar values including the rule of law.”

The host David Foster described the row as a “potentially fatal problem” in the long run, quoting a former senior EU policy official. 

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A fresh row between Brussels and Warsaw erupted during recent talks over the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund,

Poland and Hungary vetoed the support package after member states agreed that funding would not be handed out to countries who do not respect the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression.

After days of intense negotiations, a compromise was eventually reached, meaning the £1.6trillion of stimulus funding can now be distributed to the EU27.

But the row highlights the division that still exists between Poland, Hungary and the rest of the bloc.

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The problem has led some experts to warn that the ‘Polexit’ process may have already begun to grow momentum.

Borys Budka, leader of Civic Platform, the main opposition party in Poland, told reporters last month his country was at risk of losing its place in the EU.

He compared Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s actions to David Cameron in the UK, who inadvertently started the Brexit process by calling a referendum in 2016.

Mr Budka said: “Morawiecki may go down in history like Cameron, who perhaps unintentionally started the Brexit process, and likewise Morawiecki, by vetoing the budget, may start the Polexit process.”

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Mr Morawiecki has been critical of the EU, recently warning that the bloc risks becoming an “oligarchy”.

Meanwhile, President Andrzej Duda has used harsh terms to describe the EU, branding it an “imaginary community of little consequence for us”.

Experts have varying opinions on the future of Poland and Hungary in the EU.

Milan Nic, head of the Robert Bosch Center for Central and Eastern Europe, argued while Poland may remain in the bloc, there could be a “de facto Polexit”.

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