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Juncker: EU Can’t Extort (or Enforce) Democracy

Walter Russell Mead

Jean-Claude Juncker is rebuffing renewed calls from Berlin to make EU funding dependent on members’ adherence to democratic governance and the rule of law. Financial Times:

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has rejected a German proposal to make EU funding contingent on member states’ adherence to democratic principles and human rights — an increasingly charged issue in countries such as Poland and Hungary.

The proposal was contained in an internal German government paper, seen by the FT, that deals with reforming the EU after Britain leaves the bloc. It says the European Commission should examine whether the receipt of EU funds “could be linked to [a country’s] compliance with the fundamental principles of the rule of law”.

Asked at a conference in Berlin if he supported the idea, Mr Juncker said: “I am of the opinion that one should not do that.” He added that the proposal would be “poison for the continent”.

Juncker may well be right that the proposal would further divide the EU and alienate Warsaw and Budapest. But his position here only highlights the complexity and contradictions of the European project. In theory, a commitment to democracy and the rule of law is the foundation of the European Union. But the President of the European Commission is saying that this commitment is essentially unenforceable.

If funding from Brussels cannot be used to uphold the core of the project, what is left of the union? More pragmatically, how does Brussels expect German taxpayers to up their financial contributions to foreign governments that spit on their basic commitments?

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