Dec 12th, 2018, 10:00 AM

Article 7 and the Future of the EU

By Jackson Vann
Polish Law and Justice Party logo. Image credits: Wikimedia/Kashmiri
EU seeks to protect the Rule of Law after the Justice Reform in Poland.

The European Union (EU) has been around since 1993, but the idea of it existed for much longer in organizations such as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) established in 1951, and the European Economic Community (EEC) established in 1957. These earlier communities were made to establish a bond between the major powers, making them dependable on each other, and thereby preventing another war. Since the formation of these communities, and later on the EU, there has been little conflict on the European continent.

The ECSC, EEC, and eventually also the EU, were key players in the democratization process of Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, as well as playing an important role in the reconciliation of the Balkans. The EU's influence in Eastern Europe and the Balkans caused for the European Union to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 - they pushed for the "advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe," according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

A big accomplishment of the EU was the formation of the Euro, which, in 2017, allowed for the EU to be the second largest economy in the world. The EU has been playing a big role in the world. However, in recent times there seems to be more and more turmoil, with Brexit being finalized in March 2019, the continuous financial crisis in Greece, Italy and Spain and the rise of populism. The rising populism has resulted in Euroscepticism and reforms that threaten the existence of the EU - Poland has been an example of this.

Pro-Democracy Protest Against Judaical Reform. Image credit: Adrian Grycuk

Following unprecedented deviation from the Rule of Law in Poland after the rise of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), a national-conservative party. The PiS, which has been in power since 2015, has made changes to the Constitutional Court and its judges, controlling the media, and making changes to the Supreme Court. The EU has invoked Article 7 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, which suspends certain rights from a member-state. There have been reforms in Poland, which has included the purging the remaining communist presence in the government. The PiS has been working on changing the members who hold positions on the Supreme Court. By having a favorable Supreme Court, the PiS can continue to execute the items on their agenda. The reform has been filled with controversy and outrage - the opposition within the parliament did not vote on the reform bill.

The EU has launched an unprecedented inquiry, stating that Poland had violated the democratic standards of the EU regarding independent press and judicial freedom. Additionally, the EU has started the implications of Article 7. Phase one caused for four-fifths of the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) to agree that Poland had breached a core value of the EU. The PiS has not backed down and continue to claim that they have the right to reform, as it is a national issue rather than an international one.

People protesting the new law violating the independence of the judiciary, March 26, 2017. Image credit: Flickr/Grzegorz Żukowski

Right now it looks like neither side will be backing down or giving up the fight. The EU has already initiated Article 7 and referred Poland to the European Court of Justice. While the EU has initiated Article 7, they have not officially triggered it, as a unanimous vote is needed to do this. Hungary, who is a strong ally of Poland, has publically stated they would Veto initiating Article 7. Additionally to Article 7 being initiated towards Poland, it has also been initiated toward Hungary, as their government is silencing the media, removing independent judges, and failing to uphold fundamental EU values. Hungary is also run by a populist party: Fidesz.

A fading European Union flag. Image credit: Flickr/Theophilos Papadopoulos.

These populist movements present in Poland and Hungary pose a threat to the European Union. But it is not just the populist movements, the rising tensions in Ukraine, the lack of commitment from the United States regarding NATO, the on-going refugee crisis, just to name a few, are impacting the stability of the EU.

The future of the European Union is more than just an economic alliance based on neo-liberal ideals. It is a beacon of democracy and human rights all over the world. The EU has aided in the implementation of democracy in numerous countries and aided in their integration into the European community. Its impacts are not just limited to Europe: global development programs aid in the development of industry, human rights, medical coverage, and many other fields. If the European experiment fails, the world could lose one of the largest promoters of human rights in the world, and Europe may once again close her borders.