If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I have been having difficulties finding contenders, let alone a winner, of the Peter Smith’s “Funniest Story of the Month” competition.
When I am really desperate, I know that I can usually rely on the “Joker” of the EU, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Junker. Those of you who follow EU politics closely (it should be all of you, otherwise how the hell are we going to sort this mess out if you don’t know what’s going on!) will know that Monsieur Junker is always good for a laugh or two whenever he appears in public. Here is a wonderful example:
A few years ago, after a European summit meeting ended in tears as negotiations on the European Union budget collapsed (again), Junker addressed a press conference:
“People will tell you next that Europe is not in a crisis. It is in a deep crisis”.
Significantly, Juncker started his press conference by sipping from a glass of water.
“Excuse me that I drink first. I don’t drink because I talked too much but because I have listened a lot. Others will probably be thirsty because they talked too much and listened too little.”
However, if you are prepared to be patient and look around wide enough, you can always find someone who is prepared to make a bit of a fool of themselves. And today I found the winner.
What makes this month’s winner all the more special is that the author of the winning article is none other than Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, and now President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE) in the European Parliament.
If you read the article with your brain in neutral and your “EU info garbage glasses” on, you could be excused for believing that Mr. Verhofstadt has a valid point.
However, he has obviously been spending too much time in the company of EU dictator-wannabees and brain-dead bureaucrats and I think he’s gone a bit soft in the head.
The fact is that two previously “communist controlled & influenced” countries (please note carefully the term that I use) who, like the rest of the European countries that were very well persuaded to believe that joining the EU would be to their infinite benefit, are now finding out that they have just replaced one master with another. And they find this situation very disturbing.
To their absolute credit and my undying admiration, Poland and Hungary are now trying to scrabble back a little sovereignty and dignity for their nations, before it is too late. The desire to do good for your nation and to place the welfare of your citizens high on a list of priorities, seems to have totally washed over the heads of our esteemed democracy converts in the European Parliament and in the other “democratic” EU institutions.
And let us rather just ignore the fact that both the governments in question were democratically elected into power to do exactly what I have described in the previous paragraph.
Maybe some things that they are doing in their countries are not perfect, but perfection and high standards do not seem to be required traits in the EU anymore. I have included the links to other Project Syndicate articles that expand on the issues in question, so that a reader can better understand the background of the issue being discussed here. Keep an open mind and keep looking for more information.
Therefore, without further ado, I present to you the winner of the “Funniest Story of the Month” award for April.
by Guy Verhofstadt (11 April 2016)
“Brussels – From the rubble of two world wars, European countries came together to launch what would become the world’s largest experiment in unification and cooperative, shared sovereignty. But, despite its impressive achievements over the decades, the European project now risks disintegration.
An unresolved financial crisis, a refugee crisis, a deteriorating security environment, and a stalled integration process have created throughout Europe a toxic, unstable political environment in which populism and nationalism thrive. Perhaps the clearest manifestation of this is the erosion of the rule of law in the European Union.
Two EU members in particular, Hungary and Poland, are now jeopardizing hard-won European democratic norms – and thus undermining the very purpose of European integration.
In Hungary, liberal-democratic values have come under systematic attack from Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government. Since his return to the premiership in 2010, Orbán has committed Hungary to an authoritarian nationalist path, and he has exploited the refugee crisis to cement a “siege mentality” that helps him sustain popular support.
In the process, fundamental rights have been ignored, media freedom has been curbed, refugees have been demonized, and Orbán is doing everything in his power to weaken the EU. Attempts by EU institutions to convince Orbán to change course have only emboldened him to commit further outrages against democratic norms.
Meanwhile, a democratic crisis has emerged in Poland as well, starting last October, when the Law and Justice (PiS), a Euroskeptic party that also opposes immigration, secured an outright parliamentary majority by promising to implement populist economic policies and “put Poland first.” Yet, since the election, PiS has launched a series of attacks on the Polish constitution itself.
Government legislation aimed at reforming Poland’s Constitutional Court has been condemned by the Court itself and the European democracy watchdog, the Venice Commission. The government has effectively precluded the Court from ruling on the constitutionality of legislation. This weakens a key pillar of the democratic rule of law – and thus is highly problematic for Poland and Europe alike.
Hungary and Poland are the leading edge of a far-right agenda that has taken hold throughout Europe, pursued by parties that are exploiting the political vacuum created by the EU’s failure to address the financial and refugee crises. So how can the tables be turned?
In democratic countries, it is vital that democracy’s enemies be fought with democratic means. It is vital that the outside world impress on the Hungarian and Polish people themselves that in a globalized world, nationalism offers only false security and economic irrelevance. Both countries, at the heart of Europe, have profited enormously in every sense from EU membership; they must not throw away their opportunity to make further progress.
Hungarians and Poles rejected international isolation in 1989. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, both countries became staunch NATO allies even before they joined the EU. The geopolitical and security arguments for European unity are overwhelming, and there can be no united Europe without Hungary and Poland.
But all of us, and in particular the peoples of Hungary and Poland, must remember that NATO, like the EU, was founded on the fundamental principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law. A government that flouts those principles jeopardizes the coherence and solidarity of the alliance. It is therefore vital that the United States and other NATO allies speak out now and insist that functioning democratic checks and balances are safeguarded. It would be unimaginable for NATO heads of state to go ahead with their planned leadership summit in Warsaw in June if Poland remains in its constitutional crisis, with the government disregarding the rule of law and the opinion of a respected international body.
Hungarians and Poles must be reminded that Russian President Vladimir Putin is actively attempting to divide and weaken the EU and NATO. If Europe is to face down aggression from the Kremlin, it is essential that Poland and Hungary adhere to these groups’ fundamental values and principles.
But it is also necessary that the EU itself develop a more comprehensive mechanism for safeguarding the rule of law within the Union. The EU has mechanisms to regulate economic policies, safeguard the environment, and police the Single Market. But Europe has always been much more than an economic project; it is also a union of values, which no member can be allowed to repudiate without consequence.
Governments are created and fall apart, and politicians come and go; but democratic institutions should be spared from political interference. The sad reality is that, were they to apply for EU membership today, neither Hungary nor Poland would be admitted. Their people should weigh carefully what that means. Their current leaders claim to be defending national interests. But is it really in their countries’ interest to be sidelined by the US, NATO, and the rest of Europe?”
Note from the Editor: it is not editorial policy to make light of democratic principles and the rule of law. However, it is editorial policy to expose stupidity and hypocrisy and to rigorously and relentlessly examine all proposals and ideas that are put forward as a solution to the problems in Europe.