Sometimes one gets the impression that the European Union is completely incapable of acting. Most recently, Hungary’s strongman Viktor Orbán sabotaged the compromise on the oil embargo against Russia because he rejects sanctions against the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. Rightly so, I think, but that’s irrelevant here.
The fact that Orbán, armed with the principle of unanimity, can present the European Commission, the European Parliament and the 26 other EU heads of government proves that Orbán’s rhetoric, in which the EU functions as an overpowering monster, does not correspond to reality.
However, the Commission has recently managed – with little attention from the media – to burst open the bloc of Central European countries that Orbán had forged against Brussels.
At the suggestion of President Andrzej Duda, the Polish parliament has decided to dissolve the “disciplinary chamber” created to subject judges to the arbitrariness of the ruling PiS party. It remains to be seen whether, as the opposition fears, the “Chamber for Professional Responsibility” that was decided instead will fulfill the same function in the end; the first thing to do now is to celebrate the withdrawal of an open attack on the rule of law.
This is a success for Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who refused to pay out the 35 billion euros from the Corona aid package due to Poland as long as the PiS did not move on the rule of law. The European Court of Justice (ECJ), which sentenced Poland to pay one million euros a day as long as Parliament refused to dissolve the disciplinary body, probably helped, although the judgment gave not only PiS but also me stomach ache.
Under normal circumstances, the actions of the Commission and the ECJ could have pushed Poland more closely to Orbán’s side. But Vladimir Putin came to Brussels’ aid. Faced with the Kremlin’s aggressive policy, Andrzej Duda said: “We don’t need a conflict with the European Commission. Because we are in a difficult international situation right now.”
Viktor Orbán stubbornly adheres to the myth of an international conspiracy of gay networks, Islamist supporters of migration, feminist enemies of the nation, masculinity and family in alliance with Brussels bureaucrats and international financiers, as represented by right-wing populists all over Europe.
The catholic-conservative governing party in Poland likes this story, not least of which is Benedict XVI. was supported, be sympathetic. But it did not escape her notice that it was now being spread primarily by Moscow and used to weaken the West.
As in the Cold War, ruling Catholics must choose the lesser evil in the conflict between authoritarianism and freedom. The decision was made in Poland; in largely Catholic Hungary it is still pending.