Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán confirmed on Monday that he will block the 750 billion euro recovery plan at the European Council so that the countries most affected by the pandemic can rebuild their economies. Why? Because Brussels is right to link this aid to compliance with the rule of law. But of course, neither Hungary nor Poland accept these conditions because they would force them to make democratic reforms or, if they do not carry them out, to give up the funds. And since their vote is necessary to approve the plan, they are in a position to hold the whole of the EU to ransom.
These two countries, which have long since moved away from the values that the EU represents, pose an unprecedented challenge: can we continue to fund governments that do not respect the separation of powers, freedom of the press and are openly homophobic? Obviously not, because that would be a perversion of the EU's founding fathers' dream of creating an area of trade, freedoms and tolerance that would serve as a guide for the whole world. But, at the same time, the EU's operating rules, which give the right of veto to the states for certain decisions, make this blockade possible.
If the EU wants to survive with its values, then it has to find a way to circumvent the Hungarian and Polish veto in order to implement an economic recovery plan, which is both urgent and late. Each week of blockade, each day without these funds, makes the bill for the covid more expensive. And even more so when the second wave is already hitting hard. Therefore, the only solution is for the EU to stop functioning as a club of immutable states and to make it possible for it to function at different speeds in certain aspects.
Germany, France, Benelux, Italy and the Iberian countries could also aspire to integration, while the countries of the East are much more jealous of their sovereignty. This division is condemning the EU to paralysis and threatens to sink it economically. Because while the United States or China have agile financial mechanisms to act in cases of crisis, the European Union is forced to hold eternal negotiations to reach agreements that, moreover, can be blown up at any moment.
Europe needs to activate these funds, the most important intra-European solidarity operation since the creation of the EU. These funds, as a great novelty, give the Commission the capacity to get into debt. At the same time, it must be able to impose a minimum of democracy and respect for minorities within its territory. And if this time Orbán and his allies have their way, perhaps the approval of the funds will be saved in the short term, but in the long term it will be a stain on the European project.
Now is therefore the time to act, the time for the Paris-Berlin axis to pull its weight and give the EU the necessary impetus to move forward, even if it comes at the price of leaving someone behind. Because, if not, it will be the whole European project that will be in danger.