Who Are EU to Judge?

This paper is dedicated to support the people of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Austria and their elected governments which have turned towards their electorates.

Division in the EU between member states and institutions has been sparked by immigration quotas and refugees. The disagreement would not be a big deal, since it is a part of policy – making process, but Brussels liberal institutionalists seem to forget a problem they have never been prepared to deal with in the first place – legitimacy.

Refugees have been protected by international law on human rights such as European Convention and Universal Declaration, also Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (Art. 79), Geneva  Convention and Dublin regulation.  The documents are important not only in their legal implications, but they have also been a source of legitimacy for the EU institutions. The law of the EU is important and must be abided[1], but the member states mentioned above also have a valid reason not to.

The eurocrats have to explain why actions and policies take place, the ballot papers do not include open questions – the people do not need to explain anything. Majority of turnout voters in Poland and Hungary have expressed their negative position towards refugee quotas, but also Austria, Czech Republic[2], Sweden[3] and Slovakia[4] have shared similar views. It is highly likely that the infringement procedure will take place, but political consent (unanimity) is not going to be easily acquired. Let us not forget the fact that the EU (or its western European countries) have a tendency towards imposing their will upon democratically elected governments[5]. In the case of Austria in 1999, the European Commission and so called “the 14” took a joint action against Austria for electing right wing party Freiheitliches Partei Österreich. The sanctions were only diplomatic and not legal, since no breach of European values actually occurred, it revealed Brussels intentions to safeguard the treaties despite its staunchly advocated notion of the “rule of law.”

The EU has the right to take Poland and Hungary to the Court of Justice[6], although the decision is legal, it would not be legitimate. Polls show that security concern is associated to Muslim immigrants including refugees and the vast majority are not even happy about the EU handling the crisis[7]. Ten countries in the union want to ban Muslim immigration[8], the number would supposably be higher if eastern european countries were interviewed also. The consequences of legal action are too soon to predict, but suing national and democratically elected governments, blaming, shaming and labeling them as leaning to dictatorships[9] will not help contribute in building trust and a positive image of the EU.

The elephant is not only in the room – it is already sitting on the head of the EU project. The fundamental values of democracy, human rights, human dignity, equality, freedom and “rule of law” are indeed challenged, but maybe not by those who the EU has accused. The spectre of a problem is too broad, solidarity among Europeans has been exchanged for solidarity among non-Europeans and now the whole project is in trouble.

[1] https://www.politico.eu/article/ecj-rejects-slovakia-hungary-refugee-challenge/

[2] http://www.europenowjournal.org/2017/02/09/why-is-the-czech-republic-so-hostile-to-muslims-and-refugees/

[3] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sweden-immigration-crackdown/sweden-intensifies-crackdown-on-illegal-immigrants-idUSKBN19Y0G8

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/06/eu-court-dismisses-complaints-by-hungary-and-slovakia-over-refugees

[5] http://www.demokratiezentrum.org/fileadmin/media/pdf/falkner_sanctions.pdf

[6] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/eu-poland-hungary-czech-republic-refugee-crisis-handle-legal-proceeding-lawsuit-european-commission-a7789161.html

[7] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/16/european-opinions-of-the-refugee-crisis-in-5-charts/

[8] https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/what-do-europeans-think-about-muslim-immigration

[9] http://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/juncker-greets-orban-with-hello-dictator/

Paulius Svetukaitis