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Without the rule of law there is no Europe

Editorial of the “World”. Against the background of the Russian war in Ukraine, two European leaders who do not hide their goodwill towards Moscow have just seen their electoral bases largely confirmed. In Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic was re-elected on Sunday, April 3, with nearly 60% of the vote. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s party, Fidesz, won such a big victory on the same day that it was able to maintain a two-thirds majority in parliament.

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These two leaders share a certain restrictive practice of democracy and the rule of law. In particular, the political appropriation of the public media by the authorities played an important role in these two election campaigns. Faced with an electorate concerned about the fallout from the return of war to their continent, MM. Both Vucic and Orban capitalized on the promise of stability offered by the reappointment of the incumbent chairman.

Unlike Serbia, Hungary is a member of the European Union (EU). Mr Orban’s victory, all the more resounding as it is his fourth successive win since 2010, and as he faced united opposition, is therefore more serious in its implications for Europe. He demonstrated this as soon as the results were announced, denouncing “the opponents” which he said he had tried to impede his re-election, including: “the bureaucrats of Brussels” and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Vladimir Putin was one of the first to congratulate him on his victory.

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If Viktor Orban’s European partners are used to his rants against Brussels, his attack on the Ukrainian president, at a time when the world was discovering the images of the Boutcha massacre, poses a challenge of a different nature than the EU. It jeopardizes precious European solidarity, as demonstrated by Hungary’s refusal to participate in a possible embargo on Russian oil.

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Orban needs European funds to fulfill the promises he made to his voters during the campaign. The EU has an important lever here, which it wants to use with regard to Budapest: the conditionality mechanism, which makes it possible to make the release of European funds allocated to a Member State conditional on compliance with the rule of law. † Brussels had avoided activating this mechanism so as not to be accused of meddling in the election campaign. Now the way is clear, and the European Commission has rightly committed itself to it† It is no longer acceptable for European taxpayers to fund subsidies to countries whose governments refuse to guarantee that they are used in accordance with the law.

The problem now arises in Warsaw, also in violation of the Rule of Law Commission. Unlike Budapest, Poland, a hub for the supply of weapons and a refuge for nearly 2 million refugees, is a leading player in solidarity with Ukraine. As such, it must be helped. But the attitude of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, which continues to attack Germany and France publicly, shows that the party in power is still in a logic of confrontation within the EU. Solidarity with Ukraine but total strictness with regard to the rule of law: more than ever this line must apply to all Member States. There is no Europe without the rule of law.

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