Leaving aside the allegations that the President of the European Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, was party to Luxembourg’s notorious tax-avoidance schemes, which attracted companies like Amazon and Pepsi-Cola, when he was Finance Minister then PM, there is something rotten in the EU.
Bojan Pancevski’s piece in the Sunday Times this week spelled out its extent.
Hungary, one of the first countries to allow escapees from East Germany to cross its borders into Austria, and originally hailed as an example of new democracy, has recently turned its back on liberalism – President Orban talks of a shift to “an illiberal state” – and adopted an authoritarian form of government with close ties to Russia. And corruption is so widespread that the USA has imposed a travel ban on six senior Hungarian officials over allegations of corruption – even though they are partners in NATO.
Slovenia joined in 2004 after emerging from the Balkan conflict. Originally praised for its successful liberal economy an economic development it was the first eastern european nation to meet the criteria to join the euro currency. Now the economy is struggling and corruption seems rife. The former Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who as in power when they joined the EU, is now serving a 2-year jail sentence for corruption. His successor is also under investigation after nominating herself to become a member of the European Commission.
Romania and Bulgaria are both under special scrutiny by the EU as each year they fail to make progress in curbing organised crime and corruption and to establish an independent judiciary. In Romania 30 lawmakers have been prosecuted or jailed for failing to take action against corrupt officials and for pressurising the judiciary. In neighbouring Bulgaria three governments fell in one year in the face of public protests about corruption.
Croatia, the latest country to join the EU, is also struggling with bribery and bad governance. The former Prime Minister, Ivo Sander, who steered the country into the EU is serving an 8-year sentence for corruption.
There doesn’t seem to be much the EU can do. Once you’re in the EU club you’re in for life it seems (although British eurosceptics might wish it weren’t so).
The candidates for membership of the EU promise to be good democratic. law-abiding countries. Once they’re in the facade slips and the influence of decades of dictatorship re-surfaces.
Let’s not forget that Portugal, Spain and Greece were all ruled by dictators until the 1970s but they don’t seem as bad as the new boys on the block. Hungary and Bulgaria are keen to allow the construction of a gs pipeline from Russia – something the EU has previously stopped.
It’s not all bad news. The three Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all former soviet republics, have done better (although corruption is still around with EU monies ending up in companies set up by MPs and their families).
Poland, the biggest of the new members, has done well economically and its citizens have a reputation for hard work. (The Poles have the highest employment rate (80%) of any nationality in England & Wales including the Brits). Its President Donald Trusk has been appointed to the post of President of the European Council.
And it’s Poland, and the Baltic countries – who appreciate their hard-earned independence in 1991, who are urging a hard line against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.