Last month, we documented the burgeoning spat between Brussels and Poland over the latter’s move to approve new laws that allow the conservative (and eurosceptic) Law and Justice (PiS) government to name the chiefs of public TV and radio, and select judges for Poland's constitutional court.
In response to a bloc-wide backlash, Polish minister Zbigniew Ziobro sent a letter to EU commissioner Gunther Oettinger in which Ziobro dismissed criticism of the new laws as “silly.”
Oettinger earlier suggested that Poland be put under supervision for possible violations of democratic principles and after the Polish Wprost weekly ran a cover depicting Angela Merkel, Jean Claude-Juncker, and other eurocrats as Nazis who “want to supervise Poland again,” Brussels hit back by launching a review of the country’s new media laws. Under the “rule of law” mechanism, the EU Commission can compel member states to change measures that pose “a systematic threat” to democracy.
But that’s not all. According to comments from French President Francois Hollande on Friday, Europe could move to “suspend” countries in which far-right governments rise to power.
“French President Francois Hollande warned Friday that an EU member state could be sanctioned if the extreme-right came to power there -- and could even be suspended from the bloc,” AFP reports.
"A country can be suspended from the European Union," the President told France Inter radio.
“Human rights watchdog the Council of Europe last week expressed concern at legislative changes proposed by Poland's new right-wing government that have been described both at home and abroad as unconstitutional and undemocratic,” AFP goes on to say, adding that “similar concerns have been expressed about Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban.”
"When the freedom of the media is in danger, when constitutions and human rights are under attack, Europe must not just be a safety net. It must put in place procedures to suspend (countries) -- it can go that far," Hollande said.
"Checks," he said, are necessary on Poland.
There are a couple of things to note here. First, it's not at all clear why it should be up to France how another country's citizens vote. Indeed, there's something terribly ironic about the idea of punishing a country for their voting preferences in the name of democracy. There's certainly nothing democratic about telling entire countries who they're allowed to elect.
Second, Hollande's comments seem to reflect fears that the worsening refugee crisis has led to a revival of nationalism in Europe. Between the growing support for PEGIDA, which staged bloc-wide rallies earlier this month)...
...and the popularity of groups like the "Soldiers of Odin" in Finland...
...it's clear that the far-right is indeed staging a comeback. One wonders how many nations Hollande and Brussels are prepared to "suspend."
Or perhaps it's the other way around. Given the shifting sentiment, perhaps the far-right will "suspend" the bloc's Francois Hollandes for failing to keep Western Europe secure in the face of myriad threats to the bloc's territorial inegrity and cultural heritage.