Summary of Defending EU Values in Poland and Hungary

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Defending EU Values in Poland and Hungary summary


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Hungary and Poland’s populist, nationalist governments are turning their backs on democratic values and rule of law. Thus far, the European Union has failed to forcefully counter the two member states’ violation of core EU principles. But, as Heather Grabbe and Stefan Lehne of Carnegie Europe argue, a continued slide into authoritarianism does not only put the political futures of these two European nations at risk. By acquiescing to Poland and Hungary’s disregard of EU laws and values, the EU undermines its own legal foundations – and, ultimately, the European Union’s raison d’etre

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why EU member states have hesitated to condemn authoritarian policies in Hungary and Poland
  • Why a strong, cohesive EU depends on all member states upholding the rule of law

About the Authors

Heather Grabbe is the director of the Open Society European Policy Institute. Stefan Lehne is a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels.



Authoritarian tendencies within Hungary and Poland’s governments are violating core European Union principles of democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. The EU’s ability to enforce these values, however, is very limited. The EU treaty seeks to uphold member states’ right to self-government and national sovereignty. Although Article 7 (2,3) of the treaty empowers the European Council to declare a member to be in breach of EU values, and to suspend privileges, its evocation requires unanimity among all member states. In the case of Hungary and Poland, Hungary has already vowed to bar a unanimous vote should the Council seek to impose sanctions on Poland.

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