EU Friday – 24 May

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EU Friday

Welcome to Better Europe’s weekly update on EU Affairs.


At the General Affairs Council this week, EU Ministers gave their nod of approval to end the Article 7 procedure against Poland. In 2017, the European Commission presented a reasoned proposal on a clear risk of serious breaches of the rule of law by Poland to the Council, thereby activating the relevant procedure under the EU Treaties. Despite its big, and dangerous sounding name, this Article 7(1) process is in fact a toothless tiger. It was used for the first time for Poland and Hungary, and only calls for a determination of a clear risk of a breach of the rule of law, one of the European values enshrined elsewhere in the Treaties, but comes with no punishment. In order to give this tiger some teeth, the Commission introduced the rule of law conditionality which allows the suspension of payments in case of breaches of the rule of law. As for Poland, the country is no longer deemed to pose a danger to the EU progressive, democratic values, after presenting its Action Plan to bring back the rule of law including a separation of the now joint position of General Prosecutor and Minister of Justice, and compliance with the EU Court of Justice judgements.


Ten European NGOs issued a joint statement calling on the European Central Bank to accelerate its actions against climate and nature crises. While acknowledging some of the ECB’s actions, the organisations highlight that a huge gap remains with the scale of the challenges posed by the climate crisis. As a solution, they suggest that the bank should recognise the precautionary principle to minimise any activities that contribute to degrading environmental effects. The ECB should also acknowledge climate and nature-related considerations within its primary mandate, and more importantly, define explicitly how these contribute to price stability. The NGOs also look at how these principles can be put into real life. They call for adjustment of the collateral framework to include climate and nature-related risks, as well as implementing green TLTROs to support green investment and thereby contribute towards EU transition goals.


Only two weeks ahead of the EU elections, Germany’s far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has been polling high for the past few months, is going through a strenuous crisis as a series of scandals has led its traditional European partners to walk away. Tensions escalated earlier this week when its head of list MEP Maximilian Krah affirmed that a member of the Nazi SS “could not necessarily be considered a criminal”. This led the AfD to requireMEP Krah to refrain from any public interventions until the elections, and later on to push for his expulsion from the AfD’s European political group Identity and Democracy (ID). This was however considered too little too late by other ID members, who decided to kick out the AfD delegation from their group. The move followed statements by France’s Rassemblement National and Czechia’s Freedom and Direct Democracy Party refusing to sit alongside the AfD during the next parliamentary term. The expulsion is expected to have direct consequences on the political power balance in the next Parliament, as the isolation of the AfD is expected to trigger a game of musical chairs within hard-right EU political groups, and will likely create an opportunity for liberal Renew to remain the third biggest group, and therefore kingmaker, in the EU hemicycle.