The announcement by the European Commission of a recovery plan was hailed as an unprecedented sign of solidarity in the history of the European Union.
Certainly, the EU has never faced an economic crisis comparable to the one unfolding and this required urgent and substantial financial measures that can assist ailing member states.
However, despite the presumably good intensions of the decision-makers of the EU it might be too early to rejoice and celebrate.
Those who follow closely the evolvement of decision-making in the EU know that things are rarely as great as they appear at first sight.
Firstly, the recovery package needs approval by the European Council in one of its forthcoming summits. As we already know it there are already four member states, the so-called „Frugal Four” that oppose a Pan-European rescue package whereby the costs of assisting hard-hit, ailing member states are spread among the 27-state community. These states would be happier to see a higher proportion of loans and less of non-repayable grants in the package. Others are worried about the impact that such a package would have on the debt levels of some Eurozone member states. Such concerns are not entirely unfounded, as some countries like Greece, Italy and France already have a debt to GDP ratio well beyond acceptable based on the stringent fiscal requirements set out in the Euro-charter.
As the recovery package and the pooling of resources from the international money markets would not constitute a Euro-bond, i.e. a de facto transfer of debt from the member states to the EU, these countries would see a significant increase in their debt levels.
This would eventually lead to pressure from the ECB and the Eurogroup for severe austerity in years to come, which would in turn further weaken an already unstable monetary union.
Furthermore, those who criticize the EU for a lack of transparency and a democratic deficit have a point to make. In the case of the EU recovery package it is more than curious that the proposal of the European Commission was presented just a few days after Angela Merkel Chancellor of Germany and Emmanuel Macron President of France announced a deal for European economic recovery, which in all its details is identical to the Commission’s proposal. Of course, from the very beginning it is understood and appreciated that Franco-German reconciliation is the engine of European cooperation. However, that cannot mean and certainly cannot appear to be an intransparent process of behind-the-door deals with 25 other members following suit without a word to say.
Especially in critical times where rapid action is needed, the European Community must act democratically and transparently in line with its most cherished values, otherwise it risks its future and exposes itself to the criticisms of populists ready to capitalize on their mistakes.
If there is anything that all Europeans can be proud of regardless of their nationality, origin or identity, it is most certainly the rule of law, transparency, access to legal representation and equality before the law. We can be proud of how our continent has been governed by these principles for centuries and, even if an aggressive regime has occasionally been able to drag its country away from them, we could always find our way back to them eventually. On the other hand, there has always been another system lurking at the frontiers of Europe, ready to spread its untransparent and self-interested laws – let’s call it tribalism, clan mentality or mafia. Weak monarchs or governments have been known to give in to or at least co-exist with the mafia or the oligarchs but strong leaders and strong societies refused to tolerate them.
For a long time, we may have thought that the European Union was such a strong community since we have heard so much about its values and strict but fair laws. We Hungarians had long been hoping to become a member of this alliance because we thought that its norms and regulations would protect us once and for all from the backward forces that have regularly attempted to drive our Central European country to another, Asian road. In short, we thought we would be protected from the political mafia, the oligarchs, the obscure informal networks and the consequent vulnerability, weakness and general social deprivation.
Parliamentary elections held in Serbia last weekend did not hold too many surprises for those familiar with recent political developments in the small Balkan republic. In an election originally announced for 26 April but postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic, Alaksandar Vučić’s populist right-wing Serbia Progressive Party (SNS) snatched over 60 percent of the vote and some 190 mandates in the 250-seat Skupština, the Serbian parliament. The dominance of SNS is further underlined by the fact that virtually all real opposition parties dropped out of parliament regardless of parliamentary threshold cut down to 3 percent prior to the elections. Ivica Dačić’s Socialist Party scoring second place with just over 10 percent of the vote functions more like a satellite organization in a permanent governing coalition with the SNS. Thus, the strongest and only opposition party in the Serbian parliament will be the novel formation of Aleksandar Šapić, barely scraping through the threshold.
Let us be clear at the outset: it is entirely unacceptable when a police officer kneels on the neck of a defenceless person until they suffocate. However, it is equally revolting when some take advantage of the tragedy of George Floyd and use it for their political purposes to annihilate opponents. Brutality of US police is a long overdue problem that roots deeply in American society. It did not start with the inauguration of Donald Trump as some would like to see it, and it is not only aimed at black people. It is undisputedly related to the ultraliberal right to keep and bear arms or the enormous social inequalities characteristic of the US.