European values are non-negotiable

Sallie Anderson

In Loss of sight, a popular book by Portuguese author José Saramago, a male waiting in his car at a traffic signal unexpectedly ends up being blind.

Later on, inexplicably, the very same takes place to other residents in the city. Soon public life gets entirely interfered with. Order, health care, food supply – whatever sinks into mayhem and lawlessness.

  • At the EU top, Portuguese prime minister António Costa provided Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel a present: Loss of sight by José Saramago. With a message.

Nobody in the city, Saramago composed in this dark tale about the degeneration of civilisation, “knew from now on when the light turned red”.

On 17 July, the first day of the marathon European Council on the multi-annual European budget and the corona recovery fund, Portuguese prime minister António Costa provided this Saramago book as a birthday present to German chancellor Angela Merkel.

This was an extremely symbolic present.

Nobody can lecture the Portuguese on the guideline of law. Their nation was a military dictatorship from 1926 to1974


Just after the ‘Carnation’ transformation in April 1974 was it permitted to end up being a member of the European Union: just democracies might sign up with.

If there is one prime minister in Europe today who views the stable disintegration of the guideline of law in Hungary, Poland and some other EU countries like an individual slap in the face, it’s most likely Portuguese prime minister Costa.

Hungary and Poland are in the ‘club’. They are safe. Nobody can kick them out. Their leaders make this extremely clear – assertively, cynically, turning every word inside out up until it loses all significance.

For Costa, the boy of an author and a reporter who was put behind bars 3 times for opposing the Salazar federal government in the 1950 s, this need to be a bitter experience.

Yet it was Costa who took a trip through Europe and worked the phones recently, informing other European presidents and federal government how foolish it is to link European aids from the EU budget and the recovery fund to the guideline of law in recipientcountries


Northern European countries kept demanding ‘no democracy, no money’. This looked. How can anybody who appreciates European values ever protest this?

Nevertheless, due to the fact that of that link, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán right away threatened to obstruct the whole budget and the fund, worth about EUR1.8 trillion for the next 7 years.

Costa was best: the link is foolish. And if anybody might state this, it was him. When Orbán began threatening to utilize his veto, it’s regrettable that he just brought it up. Due to the fact that he was scared he would not get his money from Brussels, now it looks like Costa just challenged the link.

However Costa’s main argument is very important. He states we can not and must not utilize European values, democracy and the guideline of law as a bargaining chip in settlements aboutmoney Settlements are about take and provide.

If you utilize European values in this sort of horse-trading, you make them flexible – which they should not be, ever.

Values are not money

“If we negotiate about values and money,” Costa composed in the Portuguese paper Público recently, “we do not defend those values but monetise them instead. They become spare change.”

This is why the European Council, in the end, kicked the can down the roadway. The European Commission will table a proposition later on this year.

Lots of were shocked. In matters over which European leaders take consentaneous choices– significance, each nation has a veto – such as the EU budget, the repercussion is that you put whatever into the hands of those breaking European values.

Strong conditionality would empower Orbán to shoot down Europe’s whole multi-annual budget, with no improvement whatsoever in the guideline of law in Hungary. This would be a win-win for Budapest.

All Costa did was attempting to explain that the linkage is worthless– not due to the fact that the guideline of law isn’t worth safeguarding however due to the fact that the linkage rewards the criminals and paralyses the performance of the EU.

“By doing this we would, out of naiveté or cynicism, repeat the process in which Orbán vetoed Frans Timmermans as president of the Commission last year,” Costa argued.

So, exists absolutely nothing we can do?

Yes, there is.

First, this works as yet another argument for the abolition of national vetos. It makes no sense that national leaders demand keeping the veto and criticise the EU for being too weak to promote the guideline of law. The 2 concerns are straight associated. It is time they acknowledge this.

Second, up until EU decision- making relocate to (certified) bulk ballot, the EU should count on the one existing treatment dealing straight with the guideline of law: Post 7 of the Treaty. Cases based on Post 7 will ultimately go to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg if countries keep neglecting cautions from Brussels.

Those treatments are, alas, sluggish and irritatingly tiresome. For now this restricted tool is all we have, so we need to make much better usage of it.

As we have actually seen recently political pressure from Brussels does not work: countries decline to be lectured. Just the court can force them to stop breaking the guideline of law.

Hungary has actually typically taken an action back prior to cases concern court. Poland has actually been founded guilty two times. Two times, to prevent sanctions, it has actually reversed laws clipping the wings of independent judges.

Is this too bleak a possibility? Not always.

In Loss of sight, Saramago’s unique, there is one girl who keeps her vision. She, most likely, made Costa think about Merkel and her role in Europe. It is thanks to this girl that all the blind, at the end of the book, see the light once again and start picking up traffic signals– simply like they utilized to.

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