• A democratic enlargement

    Ursula von der Leyen outlines the EU’s main priorities for the year at the State of the Union 2023. Photo: European Commission.

    “We will open the Rule of Law Reports to those accession countries who get up to speed even faster. This will place them on an equal footing with Member States”

    Ursula von der Leyen

    In her last State of the Union speech, the EU Commission president touched on the issues of enlargement and democracy. The subject is far from marginal: at present the EU is failing to enforce the rule of law even among its member states.

    Von der Leyen, who is seeking a second term in office, has played a part in this unsuitability. She waited after the Hungarian elections in April 2022, before triggering the “conditionality mechanism”, a leverage that makes the disbursement of EU funds conditional on compliance with the rule of law. More recently, von der Leyen unfroze ten billion euro for Viktor Orbán on the eve of a European Council summit, as if values could be negotiable.

    If the EU wants to keep a balance between opening borders and empowering democratic values, it should start by enforcing the rule of law inside its own bloc.

    This article is part of the "Growing pains" edition
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