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Can the European Union exclude its anti-democratic members?

The democratic principles must be respected by all member States in the European Union. But what happens if they are not? Should the European Union exclude the members that are not in harmony with its democratic principles?

Exclusion: necessary to defend the Unions’ credibility

11/10/2017 - 17:39
The rise of extremes in Europe is a worrying phenomenon for the political sphere as a whole. Government parties with SYRIZA in Greece, as well as major European parties with the National Front (Front National) in France, the extremist parties have gotten where no one would have imagined their presence: the political forefront. The conservative drift in certain countries, as Poland or Hungary, is alarming, between increased media control, disdain of the Human Rights or separation of powers. Their place in an ensemble promoting democracy and concord, as is the European Union, thus seems highly questionable.

A certain lack of democracy in the Union’s function can be faulted, but its position on democracy is clear: the treaty of Lisbon places democracy and the respect of Human Rights in its fundamental principles, specifying that these values “are common to all member States”, and are a membership requirement. It is therefore possible to prevent a State from entering the EU if it does not respect the Human Rights or is not democratic. But what credibility can a Union that rejects such States, while letting authoritarian derives develop within its community have?

That is when the exclusion of a State that does not respect democracy appears not only as a possibility anymore, but as a necessity. Is it conceivable at the moment? What would the consequences for the EU be?

The economic aspect

When looking at the States that are frequently pointed out, namely Poland and Hungary, the question of an expulsion must take into account the potential economic aspects of such a decision. From a pragmatic as well as a cynical point of view, the exit of the Polish and Hungarian States would be neither financially nor economically damaging to the EU. In 2014, neither Poland nor Hungary where contributing members of the EU: this is to say that they received far more from the Union than they contributed with. In that context, Poland received 13 481 million euros, while Hungary received 5 624 million. These subventions, as well as the contributions are assigned according to the country’s economy. The less strong the economy is, the more subventions it will receive from the Unions’ and the less it will contribute to the EU’s budget.

From an economic point of view, extremely cold and inhuman, the European Union can exclude both Poland and Hungary without too many economic damages. Cold and inhuman, because these countries do not receive such sums haphazardly: they are there to help the countries’ economies. But the fact is: an exclusion is possible from this aspect.

The European Unions’ credibility

Nevertheless, if we were to imagine that Hungary and Poland were among the strongest economies of Europe, would an exclusion still be conceivable? What would the consequences be on the EUs influence? Clearly, there would be some harmful impacts: an exclusion would create a dangerous precedent, an example of the EUs domination on the States’ will, Hungary and Poland having entered the Union by their own will.

However, the negative effects of a conciliation with such antidemocratic derives would probably be even more damaging: the EUs diplomatic position would see itself grandly diminished. In fact, what credibility can an organization have on negotiations on Human Rights, if she allows drifts on her own territory? What legitimacy can she claim when she blames authoritarian regimes, if she closes her eyes on some of her member States that reduce democracy within her?

With such a rise in the heart of the EU, it’s the status of her power that is threatened: by denying its own ideals of democracy and human rights, the EU runs the risk of marginalizing itself on the international scene because of this indecision. Also, even though it isn’t without consequences, there has to be action against these antidemocratic drifts: and if the future possible admonitions and sanctions are not sufficient, an exclusion will not be only an option, but a must.

Dieser Artikel präsentiert bewusst nur eine der zahlreichen, divergierenden Meinungen zu diesem kontroversen Thema. Sein Inhalt entspricht nicht zwingendermaßen der persönlichen Meinung seines Verfassers. Bitte sehen Sie hierzu Die Philosophie von Duel Amical.

Exclusion: a decision in opposition with the principle of solidarity

11/10/2017 - 17:42
We might be tempted to exclude member States that do not respect the fundamental democratic principles anymore from the European Union. Especially since it is distant countries, newly arrived to the European project, and leaders as well as citizens from Western Europe seem sceptic to their weight within the Union. However, an exclusion, even though impossible for the moment on the legal side, would seem as an acknowledgment of weakness from the European Union that would be shooting itself in the foot.

Such a decision would go against the solidarity principle, a founding principle in the European construction, at the very origin of the integration of the States that today are a concern. If the European Union exists, it is because its founding fathers and their successors were convinced that union makes strength. I could then cite the triptych Jacques Delors: “Competition stimulates, cooperation strengthens, and solidarity unifies”.

More than a principle, solidarity is the base of the European Union, one of its main reasons to be and an essential base to advance forward. We particularly need this solidarity during moments of crisis. She has already shown worrying signs of weakness when facing the debt crisis and mainly during the migrant crisis and this crisis of democracy is maybe the ultimate opportunity to prove that the principle is still alive. The member States have united for the better and the worse, in consequence it would be suicidal to launch an exclusion procedure against one of them to punish the exceeding of a government. When a country faces a crisis, in this case political and institutional, should we exclude it or help it?

Such a decision would inflict a double punishment for the concerned populations because in addition to seeing their democracy confiscated, they would lose the advantages of staying in the union unwittingly. Populations in which only a minority chose the authoritarian path, as the abstention levels were close to 50% in the polish legislative elections, and many of the voters were attracted by the demagogy of the PiS. Excluding Poland would also mean abandoning an important part of the population that participates in demonstrations to defend democracy. In an already fragile Europe, abandoning solidarity would risk putting an abrupt halt to the European construction.

An acknowledgement of weakness rather than a solution

Excluding a member State because it does not respect democracy would be a terrible failure for the European Union. Among its fundamental objectives is the defense of democracy, at least within the EU. The Unions should have judicial and diplomatic arms to enforce the democratic principle by its members. Nevertheless, if it is reduced to excluding the members that are a problem for the principles to be respected by all the members, it means there was a failure in completing the mission. We should not consider such a solution, not even use it as a threat.

In fact, the non-democratic regimes, tainted by nationalism, are hostile towards Europe and thus threatening them with exclusion would be vain. Furthermore, an exclusion would not settle the problem, on the contrary, excluding them from the European Union would liberate them from any obligation and constraint as to the questioning of democracy in their country. Exclusion is not a solution to the democracy crisis in Eastern Europe. The European Union would moreover appear as an authoritarian force that substitutes itself to the citizens will, which would only increase the already existing Euroscepticism.

The solution must go through dialogue, then through sanctions, maybe also by a modification of the treaties to give more means to the fight for democracy, instead of choosing the easy way out, radical and dangerous.

Dieser Artikel präsentiert bewusst nur eine der zahlreichen, divergierenden Meinungen zu diesem kontroversen Thema. Sein Inhalt entspricht nicht zwingendermaßen der persönlichen Meinung seines Verfassers. Bitte sehen Sie hierzu Die Philosophie von Duel Amical.

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