Macron warns Visegrad Four not to leave EU values behind

(L-R) French President Emmanuel Macron, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis during an European Council summit in Brussels, Belgium, 28 June 2018. [Olivier Hoslet/EPA/EFE]

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday (26 October) warned eastern EU members not to fall out of step with the bloc’s principles, singling out Hungary and Poland whose nationalist governments have clashed with Brussels.

In an interview published in media of the four Visegrad countries (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia), the French leader insisted that “Europe is not a supermarket”, driving home a point he made previously that eastern states could not pick and choose among the bloc’s fundamental values.

Europe is no ‘menu à la carte’, Macron tells Visegrad Four and Salvini

EU leaders poured cold water on Theresa May’s Brexit plans at an informal summit in Salzburg on Thursday (20 September) but they remained divided over migration, with French president Emmanuel Macron launching a broadside at the EU’s ‘troublesome’ member states.

Seven months ahead of elections to the European Parliament, Macron said he expected the campaign ahead of the vote to be a duel between “progressives” and nationalists.

As he kicks off a two-day visit to Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Macron also expressed concern about the refusal of some eastern EU members to accept migrants from the Middle East and North Africa under an EU quota programme drafted in the wake of the 2015 migrant crisis.

Commission frowns on ‘Christian only’ solidarity with migrants

Asked to comment today (19 August) on a statement by the premier of Slovakia that his country would only accept Christian migrants, the European Commission reiterated the principle of non-discrimination, which is at the core of EU legislation.

“We have a collective need for coherence and solidarity: we cannot benefit from the European budget without demonstrating solidarity on migration,” Macron said.

He also warned that any moves by member states to reduce their payments into the common budget could serve to undermine EU unity, including its single market.

“We cannot try to reduce our contribution to the European budget without understanding what the single market brings. If we want to kill Europe, we should continue like this,” Macron said.

“Europe isn’t a one-way street: it is a reciprocal commitment,” he added.

Turning to Poland’s controversial judicial reforms, Macron said he hoped that “the Polish government will take the necessary steps to address the concerns of the (European) Commission and its partners.”

Its nationalist government has put Poland on a collision course with the European Union by introducing a string of controversial judicial reforms that the bloc has warned pose a threat to judicial independence, the rule of law and ultimately to democracy.

Rule of law dispute with Poland simmers on, with no end in sight

Despite expectations to the contrary, the European Commission decided not to refer the Polish Supreme Court law to the EU’s top court on Wednesday (19 September), following a meeting of EU affairs ministers that heard Poland’s arguments on Tuesday. But it does not necessarily mean a detente is on the cards.

The French leader also noted that “the situation of the rule of law in Hungary is undergoing worrying developments”, and pointed to threats to the division of powers and the independence of non-governmental organisations.

“I have a good relationship with Viktor Orbán, whom I respect personally and as a prime minister chosen by the Hungarian people… But a Europe that ignores the diversity of ideas and beliefs, the independence of the judiciary or the press, the reception of refugees who have fled political persecution, is a betrayal of who we are,” Macron added.

Salvini and Orbán launch anti-immigration manifesto ahead of EU elections

Hungary’s illiberal Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Italy’s hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini launched Tuesday (28 August) an anti-migration manifesto aiming at next year’s European parliament elections, targeting a common enemy.

He also condemned the February murder of a journalist in Slovakia, insisting that “threatening, attacking or killing journalists undermines the foundations of our democracies”.

Jan Kuciak murder: How free is the European press?

The murder of the Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova in February provoked a wave of anger, resulting in Prime Minister Robert Fico’s resignation. However, half a year later, the state of press freedom in the country is still in limbo.

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