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Budgets, vetoes, values, defence … division and dithering shame the EU

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It’s all happening at once for the EU. Fundamental problems and disputes, long fudged, postponed or ignored, are simultaneously coming to a head. Is this a union of shared values or of economic interests? Who pays the bills? How is Europe best defended when the US cannot be trusted? What about Turkey? And then there’s “bloody Brexit”. Little wonder some are predicting a nervous collapse.

These fraught issues and more will converge at this week’s “doomsday” EU summit, presaging greater-than-usual fractiousness. But if it is as inconclusive as many previous gatherings, the European project faces serious trouble. Implementation of the €1.1tn, seven-year EU budget and €750bn Covid recovery fund cannot sensibly be delayed much longer. Yet two states – Poland and Hungary – are blocking the way.

Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s rightwing populist leader, and Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, jointly declared last week they would veto the budget if it retained “rule of law” criteria requiring adherence to EU-defined standards of judicial independence. Both governments are in long-running disputes over what Brussels views as their illiberal, “un-European” policies on judges, media freedom and women’s and gender rights. They reject what they call “politically motivated” meddling.

The fact that the row is blocking timely pandemic relief shames the EU. If it cannot unite to fight this unprecedented human emergency, voters will ask, then what can it do? Even the experienced German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who holds the EU presidency, is flailing as the French and others insist they will not bow to authoritarian diktats.

This dispute, plus........

© The Guardian

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