Jacek Saryusz Wolski MEP, the former candidate of the Law and Justice government to replace Donald Tusk as President of the European Council, has criticized the European Parliament for activating Article 7 proceedings envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty against Hungary, saying that Article 7 was in danger of being devalued by unjustified actions being brought against member states.
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Mr. Wolski noted that the EC has said that the proceedings against Poland and Hungary will not be the only ones. However, he feels that since such states as Romania and Malta are governed by parties belonging to the Socialist EP grouping, they have so far been protected from such proceedings by the Commissioner responsible for this area of EC work, Franz Timmermans.
The influential MEP also felt that the EP decision was a piece of theatre that would have little influence on what happens in the European Council. He believed that Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic and many other states would vote against imposing sanctions on Hungary.
“Article 7 was used instrumentally for purely partisan purposes. This article was formulated to deal with really dangerous situations when countries fall into the hands of totalitarian dictators. The danger is that this instrument will become a blunt one….and when we reach situations in which it’s really needed, it won’t be used as it will be seen as one more instance of ‘crying wolf’. In this way the potential of Article 7 as a safety net has been wasted just to “grill” countries with governments that the EP dislikes”.
Mr Wolski also pointed to the danger of Europe dividing into two parts.
“Mr Macron and others seem to be increasingly determined to go back on the widening of the EU and divide Europe into two parts. This means that Central and Eastern Europe , this ‘lesser Europe,’ could be disconnected, its funds stopped and its ability to influence decisions eliminated:
The Law and Justice MEP also pointed to the proposal made by the President of the EC Claude Juncker “to make foreign policy decisions subject of qualified majority voting, meaning dictat by the big member states. “ This, he felt, was “contrary to the principles espoused by the founding fathers of the EU”. Hungary, he believed, was being “punished for its migration policies, which are not the domain of the EU”. According to Mr Wolski “this is an attempt to use institutional force by certain countries and political actors, so that the democratic will of others could be subjected to the interests and ideas of the most powerful.”
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski is an academic specializing in European integration who was responsible for creating the part of the government administration in Poland that was responsible for the beginning of the European integration process and served in several Polish governments of the 1990s. He became an MEP for the Civic Platform (PO) party in 2004 and at one point chaired the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament.
Mr Wolski left the Civic Platform in 2017 in protest against his party’s support for activating Article 7 proceedings against Poland. In the same year he agreed to be the Law and Justice government’s candidate for President of the European Council against Donald Tusk, when Mr. Tusk came up for re-election within the European Council. As a result of that decision he was expelled from membership of the EPP, the biggest political grouping inside the EP, for standing against Mr Tusk who was the official EPP candidate.
Mr Wolski is a political heavyweight who was once considered a likely candidate for the post of European Commissioner from Poland. His defection to Law and Justice was a considerable boon for the governing party, even if the attempt to unseat Mr. Tusk was always doomed to fail.
Mr. Wolski points to the danger of the EU devaluing Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty by using it in cases against governments that some dislike. Indeed, there is a danger that when , for instance, Mr. Putin gains control of a member state and a real dictatorship is established in such a state, the EU as a whole will be tired of fighting over numerous Article 7 proceedings and nothing will happen.