The recent statement by the Visegrad Four on the future of Europe is “an attack on European democracy”, Jo Leinen, a respected federalist MEP (S&D, Germany), said in a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday (30 January), ahead of a key summit in February focusing on the 2019 European elections.
Leinen reacted on his blog to the statement by the four Central European countries (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia) adopted at a meeting in Budapest last Friday.
The leaders of the four countries agreed their joint stance for future talks among all EU leaders on how to reform the bloc following Britain’s departure next year.
The four #Visegrad countries (CZ, HU, PL and SK) have spoken on the future of Europe: a small "yes" to the #Spitzenkandidaten process, a big "no" to #transnationallists. That's it for a more democratic #EP2019, isn't it? #V4 https://t.co/5ClpM374Lx
— Oliver Schwarz (@OSchwarzUDE) January 30, 2018
The Visegrad Four are pushing back against proposals for more integration among the remaining 27 EU states, floated by the major western EU powers Germany and France and backed by the European Commission in Brussels.
“EU institutions should treat all member states equally and act strictly within the remits of their respective… competencies. The right of member states to carry out domestic reforms within their competences should be respected,” the statement said.
On migration, the four restated their focus on “effective, responsible and enforceable (EU) external border protection to avoid obligatory quotas (being) applied, which are ineffective and have already divided Europe.”
They also said they should not be punished for having different opinions within the bloc.
Leinen, known for supporting a federal Europe and for playing a part in drafting the European Constitution, said:
“The Visegrad governments call for a Europe of the executives, where decisions are taken in small circles and without proper parliamentary control. They ignore the democratic structure of the European Union and the role of the European Parliament as equal co-legislator. By rejecting democratic improvements such as lead candidates (“Spitzenkandidaten”) for the office of Commission President and transnational lists, they reveal their ignorance for the European voters”.
The Visegrad Statement is not entirely clear on the so-called “Spitzenkandidaten” model for the European elections, which was first used in 2014. The leaders said that it should not undermine the current balance of institutions and among the member states.
On 23 February, EU leaders will meet for an informal summit to discuss precisely the European Parliament’s makeup after the 2019 elections, possible transnational lists and the procedure for appointing top officials, including the ‘Spitzenkandidaten’.
Leinen said that before this decisive summit, the Visegrad Four were “on a collision course with the European Parliament and numerous member states.”
“There is a danger of a split not only on single issues but regarding the democratic nature of the European Union. While Emmanuel Macron promotes a sovereign and democratic Europe, Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński propagate nationalism and apparently see the European Union only as a source of structural funds”, Leinen said and added:
“It is therefore even more important that the new German government together with France defends European democracy. The coalition agreement should leave no doubt that Germany stands for a democratic European Union that is capable to act”.