Interview with Prof. Legutko
“The EU institutions depend on the strongest entities, so Germany conducts its policy through European institutions. We now have what we have – a world without rules, complete lawlessness. This is what the Union of today looks like,” says Prof. Ryszard Legutko, PiS MEP.
wPolityce.pl: The former political economy lecturer at the University of Mannheim, Roland Vaubel, said directly that the conditionality mechanism violates EU treaties and is aimed at Poland. It seems that Germany does not hide the purpose of introducing this mechanism. How do you evaluate it?
Prof. Ryszard Legutko: Germany is a large country, with a lot of people and experts, lawyers, so there are also such opinions, although generally German attitudes, and this applies to most political circles, as well as academia and media, are highly federalistic. All these moves towards increased centralization with a disregard for the treaties are approved there, and there is also an anti-Polish attitude. I say this consciously that the attitude is not only anti-government against the Polish government but generally condescending to Poland as a slightly backward, conservative country. But the opinion you quoted is, of course, the truth. It is so apparent that it’s hard to even talk about it. The European Union is governed by the principle of conferral, that is, the principle that says that the EU institutions have only those powers that have been conferred upon them, and not some implicit powers, but powers that have been conferred.
Well, when it comes to repressive measures against countries that break treaties, there is Art. 7, and that’s it. There is no more. There are, of course, some possibilities for the Court of Justice of the EU to act, but such repression against a government or a Member State is only by way of Art. 7, and it is decided by the appropriate number of states that must agree to it. As we know, this article was launched against Poland, and that’s it – more could not be done because there is no desire among the member states to act against Poland. In any case, there are not enough countries. Then the European Parliament came up with something that is, of course, utterly horrendous – it turned out that they could withhold money from a Member State if they did not like something that was being done there. They did not like the Polish Disciplinary Chamber, so they decided they would not give out the money, even though this money is not conditional on anything. If there is any clause there that would justify this type of action, it would be a case of embezzlement, spending these funds on other purposes. This is not the case in Poland, as no one has had any objections to the fairness and honesty of managing this money. It is, therefore, a complete disregard for the governing principles. This is an open violation of the treaty, not only in its letter but also in its spirit.
This institution, which is the European Parliament, is an institution that is generally harmful and violates the treaties almost every day. For example, they meddle in moral matters, which are by no means regulated by treaties. The Charter of Fundamental Rights clearly states in Article 9 – if I remember correctly – identifying the Member States as the only ones responsible for such matters, so they are just systemically violating the treaties. This is an institution ruled by a left-wing majority that moves to the next levels of madness and fanaticism. Still, the worse thing is that the European Commission, which at the beginning was very reserved about it, has now changed its position. Not long ago, Ursula von der Leyen wrote a letter to the EP in connection with the threat that the EP would sue the Commission for its delay in applying the conditionality mechanism, in which she replied very rightly that they still had to indicate where the breach was and what financial consequences it had, so then she might possibly take some action. We now see that this has already changed, and the Commission has also joined the frontline of treaty violations. Through this conditionality mechanism and the Court of Justice of the EU, the path of federalization and centralization has been cleared without looking back at the treaties at all. This is such an extreme form of judicial activism.
So we currently live in an EU where there are no rules. The rules are imposed by those who are strong, and those who are strong are the left. This is what it looks like at the moment. It’s good that there are independent voices in different countries. Still, these are individual voices, and the idea of the financial starvation of Poland and Hungary is a popular notion in the circles ruling Europe at the moment – not only by the European Union but in Europe in general.
For years, Germany has been striving to make the European Union a federal state, regardless of the government that was there. Only so far, these attempts have been made lawfully. Now that has changed. Now, the law has no meaning anymore. What occurred to make this happen? What has happened to set aside treaties, set aside the will of individual states, and begin to centralize through institutional violence? What does it come from?
The attitude toward the treaties from a certain point in time, that is, from Maastricht – how it was earlier is hard for me to say – has moved away from recognizing the relationship between the citizens of the nation-state to the constitution. There, in the EU, the principle of “una consoligno” rules, that is, the principle of constantly uniting Europe. In fact, this is the incentive that generates these integration steps. However, I think that our accession to the European Union – I am talking about the countries of Eastern Europe – entailed some risk. It opened up a scenario that we were not aware of. We entered the EU as a weaker country, which we were, and we also talked about the fact that we were going to learn European standards there. It sounds nice on paper, but from the very beginning, it created a situation of political asymmetry – stronger countries that have more to say and weaker countries that have less to say. When we were sitting quietly, it was all right, and from time to time, they gave us various “golden nuggets” such as the presidency of the European Parliament, etc. But at the moment, because Europe is ruled by the left, and nominally Christian parties, such as the CDU, and since some parties in Italy and the People’s Party in Spain obediently obeyed this left-wing agenda, the natural impetus of the left turned to those weaker countries, which additionally increases their power, because they dictate the conditions here, and the left has always tended to impose its ideology on the world. It has always been so universalist – a world revolution to include the wider world, a federation, world governments. This is the thinking of the left. As long as there was a political balance, that is, when the EU or European structures were limited to the countries of Western Europe, it was easy to do that much. Of course, Greece was a little weaker partner, etc., but the trend was not so well established yet. However, when it suddenly turned out that there were weaker countries and some of these weaker states resisted and were the only ones to preach conservative views and reject leftist thinking, they became public enemy number one. So, abolish, damn the treaties, because the EU has to centralize and the left has always been centralizing.
Germany uses and controls this trend, as it is the strongest country in the EU, so any centralization or federalization won’t happen without its approval. These institutions depend on the strongest entities, so Germany conducts its policy through the European institutions. We now have what we have – a world without rules, with complete lawlessness. This is what today’s Union looks like.
Why have no Brexit lessons been learned?
They just haven’t. If any conclusions were to be reached, it would have to be that many things would have to be fundamentally revised. Juncker’s first reaction was: “I don’t feel responsible at all. It’s not my fault.” Later, there was a statement by Merkel and Juncker in this spirit that it was not necessary to change the system, reform the Union, but to make the process of leaving the Union more difficult. So the thinking of these European elites – and this applies to European institutions, politicians, academics, and the media – is that every opportunity should be used to centralize the Union. This is what they care about to build these supranational structures. The pandemic? – We need to unify right away. The Reconstruction Fund? – it is a joint debt. The very idea of joint debt is already highly suspect, but no tribunal, and certainly not the CJEU, will question it. The CJEU has never questioned the systemic breach of the principle of granting or the principle of subsidiarity or the principle of proportionality. It has never questioned it but has given it its blessing. As we observe these people, their primary concern is for the emergence of these European structures – more power for Brussels, and in part, of course, for the strongest actors on whom these European institutions depend. Some kind of a pandemic occurs, and the treaties do not matter at all.
We are at the turn of the year. What should we expect in this coming 2022?
Various elections are approaching that can make a difference – in one direction or the other. We have the elections in France, Hungary; maybe there will be early elections in Italy. If the left gains strength, we can expect the worst to happen. However, suppose it turns out that a certain political change is taking place and these sovereignty forces will gain some political influence, then, in that case, one can start trying to free the Union from this madness. This is a very optimistic scenario – it does not seem entirely realistic to me, but it might happen.