Why Poland is not Hungary


Contemporary commentary on central and eastern Europe tends to come down with a heavy hand, say analysts Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski and In his recent snapshot, “Poland’s Constitutional Crisis,” Daniel Kelemen explains the conflict between Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and the country’s Constitutional Tribunal by way of analogy with Hungary, they write for Foreign Affairs:

As Kelemen writes, “the PiS is determined to defeat the Constitutional Tribunal because it is a major impediment to [PiS leader Jaroslawl] Kaczynski’s plan to introduce a populist electoral autocracy in Poland along the lines of [Prime Minister] Viktor Orban’s in Hungary.” This is a common comparison. But it is also mistaken. It conceals essential differences between the countries and leads to faulty conclusions, such as Kelemen’s recommendation that the EU should invoke Article Seven of the Treaty on the European Union, thereby threatening to suspend Poland’s rights as an EU member. Such ill-advised steps, however, could plunge the EU into an even deeper crisis of legitimacy.

Kelemen suggests that the EU should invoke Article Seven in order to initiate a disciplinary proceeding against Poland for violating the rule of law, in part because it failed to do so with Hungary, Karolewski and Benedikter observe:

But overcompensating for the decision not to censure Orban will not solve Poland’s constitutional troubles, and it might damage the EU even further. Many of the measures already initated against the Polish government, such as the formulation of strict deadlines for Poland to implement the European Commission’s policy recommendations, have little legal basis in the EU Treaties. A rule of law probe, therefore, could end in a lawsuit against the commission at the European Court of Justice, with good chances of the Polish government winning it. In this case, the attempt to weaken the rightist PiS government would actually strengthen it. Worse, overreach from the commission could have serious consequences for EU legitimacy, at a time when the union has already been weakened by the Brexit referendum and the rise of euroskeptic populism across the continent.


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