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EU Funds Allocation: Is Brussels Flexing Its Muscles?

Saturday, March 18, 2017 9:43
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(Before It's News)

"http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/wp-content/uploads/Euflags-e1350917034697.jpg"
alt="" width="500" />

Ever since Poland’s Law and Justice
Party (PiS) rose to power in November 2015 on a conservative
ticket, the country’s institutions have been mercilessly assaulted.
From gagging state media to gridlocking the constitutional court,
the PiS government has managed to turn one of the EU’s success
stories into a backwater.

That reckless behavior was on full
display last week when Donald Tusk was re-elected as President of
the European Council in spite of raving opposition from Polish
Prime Minister Beata Szydlo who tried to oust her political
opponent.

While Poland is still nominally
obliged to respect democratic principles regarding the rule of law
as a member state, and the European Commission has been
“forcefully” expressing its displeasure with the country’s course
of action, PiS has so far been unstoppable.

Brussels’ muted response stems
mostly from the toothlessness of Europe’s options for sanctioning
misbehaving members. Article 7, for example, was added to the
Treaty of the European Union in the late 1990s as a way of holding
members accountable for rights violations, enabling the Council to
issue a formal warning before "http://www.politico.eu/article/hungary-eu-news-article-7-vote-poland-rule-of-law/"
target="_blank">revoking
the voting rights of the violating
country. Even after the Commission triggered the pre-Article 7
process last year, Warsaw’s response was little more than a
shrug.

By failing to coerce Warsaw into
changing its way, the move instead exposed the EU’s practical
inability to enforce the rule of law in member states. As is the
case with many of Europe’s rules and procedures, the systemic rule
of law mechanism presupposes a "http://verfassungsblog.de/poland-hungary-and-europe-pre-article-7-hopes-and-concerns/"
target="_blank">willingness
to cooperate from the affected
national governments. Warsaw has considered the dispute "nofollow" href=
"http://www.reuters.com/article/us-poland-eu-ruleoflaw-idUSKBN1612NG"
target="_blank">closed
since submitting a detailed response
regarding its views to the European Commission, allowing Poland to
stonewall the Commission from taking repercussive measures for
almost a year now.

Making matters worse, actually
going through with invoking Article 7—the “nuclear option”—is
nearly impossible because this would require a unanimous vote from
EU member states. Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who is himself busy
"http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/06/hello-dictator-hungary-orban-viktor-119125"
target="_blank">upending
Hungarian democracy, has already
"http://www.reuters.com/article/us-poland-eu-ruleoflaw-idUSKBN1612NG"
target="_blank">expressed
his opposition to employing Article 7
against Poland and has no interest in seeing Law and Justice
reprimanded for following his lead. Between them, Budapest and
Warsaw have exposed the ineffective enforcement of the EC’s
mechanisms. Absent the “spirit of cooperation,” national
governments can stall Europe’s legislative process to their own
ends.

Faced with this dilemma, European
Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourová has drawn inspiration from
the US Congress and its “power of the purse” by href=
"http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-commissioner-pushes-for-hard-line-on-poland-a-1137672.html"
target="_blank">proposing
 to make the distribution of EU
funding dependent on whether states uphold fundamental EU
principles like the rule of law.

In the U.S., the federal government
uses funding it provides to the states as leverage when the two
sides find themselves at odds. Washington has, for example, "nofollow" href=
"http://foreignpolicyblogs.com//feed/https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/07/four-times-the-government-held-highway-funding-hostage/454167/"
target="_blank">used
federal highway funding to force states
into adopting laws on speed limits and drinking age. Seeing how
"http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/the-vast-funding-machinery-of-the-european-union-a-1130560-2.html"
target="_blank">countless projects
within the EU member states
and the surrounding European neighborhood rely on money from
Brussels, the funds Europe provides (and recipients take for
granted) could very well be turned into an effective enforcement
tool.

Countries like Poland and Hungary,
where derogations from EU standards are the most egregious, also
happen to be most susceptible to any kind of budget pressure. The
Polish government heavily relies on EU funding, to the tune of
"http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/policy/what/investment-policy/esif-country-factsheet/esi_funds_country_factsheet_pl_en.pdf"
target="_blank">€104.8 billion
between 2014 and 2020. Losing
that support would drastically impact the Polish economy and the
functioning of the national government, offering a powerful
incentive for Poland to comply with the EU’s rule of law
principles.

This approach can also be easily
applied to aspiring EU members, which enjoy billions of euros in
funding under the "http://foreignpolicyblogs.com//feed/https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/instruments/overview_en"
target="_blank">Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance
(IPA),
which falls under the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). In the
Western Balkans, the EU is the "http://www.euractiv.com/section/elections/news/hahn-all-sides-in-montenegro-should-show-restraint/"
target="_blank">largest investor
committed to improving
governance and rule of law—areas that are notoriously lacking.
Montenegro, for example, is one of the leading candidates for EU
ascension and yet it faces rising concerns over corruption and
insufficient judicial independence. Freedom House noted a "nofollow" href=
"http://foreignpolicyblogs.com//feed/https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2016/montenegro"
target="_blank">declining trend
in Montenegro’s governance,
especially since the 2016 election.

That election’s troubling aftermath
saw opposition figures "http://foreignpolicyblogs.com//feed/https://www.euractiv.com/section/enlargement/news/chief-prosecutor-overrules-jailing-of-montenegro-opposition-leaders/"
target="_blank">arrested
, with parties opposed to the continued
rule of long-time leader Milo Dukanovic "http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/montenegro-opposition-to-boycott-polls-over-coup-plot-alligations-02-14-2017"
target="_blank">boycotting
parliament in a political crisis
that exposed the fragility of Montenegro’s rule of law. These
developments make the EU’s "http://foreignpolicyblogs.com//feed/https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/instruments/funding-by-country/montenegro_en"
target="_blank">€270.5 million
in funding, €99.2 million of
which are supposed to be used for improving the judiciary and
fighting corruption and organized crime, appear like wasted
money.

Dukanovic, who has placed an ally
in the premiership but is still leader of the ruling party, is
notorious for his links to mafia organizations and cigarette
smuggling. Of course, that IPA funding can be seen in a very
different light: combined with the carrot of eventual EU
membership, it gives Brussels an important tool for pushing
Montenegro towards real reform.

The stakes are even higher in
Serbia. Despite being an EU candidate country, Serbia has begun to
fuel tensions between neighboring Balkan states by taking an
aggressive nationalist stance on a variety of issues. Relations
have notably "http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/serb-fury-over-genocide-appeal-adds-to-eu-s-balkan-worries-1.2986795"
target="_blank">declined
between Serbia and Bosnia over a
genocide appeal, leading to significant delays in the reform
efforts. Even so, the Serbs depend on "http://foreignpolicyblogs.com//feed/https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/instruments/funding-by-country/serbia_en"
target="_blank">€1.5 billion
worth of ENP allocations for
infrastructure improvements and economic transition. Thus far, the
worst they have seen from the EU are verbal reprimands which are
clearly not doing the job.

With the rise of the far-right and
nationalist sentiments across the continent, it is more important
than ever to enforce the fundamental principles of the European
Union and make the EU a coherent, consistent voice for democratic
values and good governance. The EC’s existing mechanisms to enforce
compliance have been exposed as paper tigers, but Europe still
needs to be able to bring unruly member and prospective states to
heel. By leveraging the billions of Euros it sends to these
countries, the Union can make sure its rules and principles are no
longer trampled underfoot.

The post "http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2017/03/18/eu-funds-allocation-is-brussels-flexing-its-muscles/"
target="_blank">EU Funds Allocation: Is Brussels Flexing Its
Muscles?
appeared first on "http://foreignpolicyblogs.com" target="_blank">Foreign Policy
Blogs
.



Source: http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2017/03/18/eu-funds-allocation-is-brussels-flexing-its-muscles/

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