The rule of law of the ECJ

Featured image: Polish & Hungarian flag | © Shutterstock

Similar to my earlier paper "Unusual self-doubt in America — Europe must become more dynamic“ of February 24, 2022, the Ukraine crisis, which Putin has now expanded into a war that violates international law, also overshadows my presentation today. From the starting point of this paper, the ECJ judgment of February 16.02.2022, 2 against Poland and Hungary, there is a direct connection to Putin's war. How can the ECJ ruling, which aims to protect European values ​​under Article XNUMX TEU, be implemented at a time when Putin's war has brought about a turning point in Europe? Will Poland and Hungary recognize the opportunities that lie in the new unity of NATO and the EU and learn again to think and act in European terms? Everything is still open.

The rule of law judgment of the ECJ - Putin's attack on Ukraine - the turning point holds an opportunity for the "constitutional sinners"

Finally! Was my first reaction. Finally, the European Union has a tool to protect its catalog of values. The ECJ made clear statements on February 16.02.2022, XNUMX: "Since respect for common values ​​is a prerequisite for enjoying all those rights that result from the application of the Treaties to a Member State, the Union must also be able to do so to defend these values ​​within the framework of the tasks assigned to it.” If there is a risk that a member state will not use EU money in its interest, the economic interests of the EU are also adversely affected. And if there is a "real connection" here, it may link the payment to appropriate conditions (sueddeutsche.de, February 16.02.2022, XNUMX: "EU may cut payments to Poland and Hungary"). 

Poland and Hungary are not innocent lambs, but rather regular customers at the ECJ. I found it “bold” that they filed a lawsuit against the rule of law mechanism with the highest European court. But their governments probably also wanted to demonstrate to their own people that they had “fought hard”, because in the end it was a lot of money from Brussels that was at stake. 

After the ECJ judgment, it is now up to the Commission to issue guidelines for the implementation of the regulation on rule of law conditionality, which was confirmed by the court. Parliament will certainly make sure that this or that head of government in the Council does not try to defuse the new instrument right away in order to build a golden bridge for the "rule of law sinners". This danger exists because Putin's war has changed the European mosaic of states, the European security architecture and the position and weight of individual member states. On the one hand, Germany and France are even more called upon to assume a leading role in the EU. The Eastern European member states see their warnings about Putin's goals confirmed even more than before. The effects of the European turning point on the practical implementation of the new rule of law mechanism will be discussed elsewhere in this paper. 

The ECJ declares the rule of law mechanism to be fully legal

On the day of the verdict – February 16.02.2022, 28 – the ECJ published a three-page press release (No. 22/XNUMX) in which it first presented the developments and background that led to the court’s decision. The press release is a true treasure trove for convinced Europeans. In it, the actually dry legal contexts are translated into European thinking and practical European politics:

"In the two cases, Hungary and Poland supported each other, while Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and the Commission intervened in support of Parliament and the Council." (Even this list shows how much Poland and Hungary have isolated themselves in the discussion on values ​​in the EU). 

“At the request of Parliament, the Court of Justice dealt with these cases under the expedited procedure. Furthermore, the cases have been referred to the plenary session of the Court of Justice because they raise an issue of fundamental importance, namely the extent to which the Union has the power under the Treaties to protect its budget and financial interests against breaches in the Member States of the principles of rule of law is violated.”

ECJ press release (No. 28/22)

The aim of the general conditionality rule is primarily "to protect the Union budget from impairments that result sufficiently directly from violations of the principles of the rule of law, and is not about punishing such violations as such." Ultimately, the decision of the ECJ to protect the values ​​of the European Union enshrined in Article 2 TEU. Protecting the EU budget and the grant money it contains is the tool to ensure protection of values ​​in practice.

In that regard, the Court of Justice points out that mutual trust between Member States is based on respect for the common values ​​on which the Union is founded. These values ​​have been defined by the Member States and they are common to them. They give the Union as a legal community of the Member States their character. They include the rule of law and solidarity. Since respect for common values ​​is thus a prerequisite for enjoying all the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to a Member State, the Union must also be able to defend those values ​​in the context of the tasks entrusted to it."

ECJ press release (No. 28/22)

An important finding – she likes mainly to the Hungarian government and Viktor Orban aimed at transforming Hungary into an illiberal democracy: the obligation to respect values ​​cannot be limited to the moment of accession to the Union, which a candidate country can then renounce. It sounds like a matter of course: respecting and protecting the values ​​of the EU is an ongoing obligation for the institutions and the Member States. It is good and sensible that this was expressly formulated by the ECJ.

In another section of the decision, the CJEU gave the Warsaw and Budapest governments a virtual lesson on how to define the rule of law and the concrete content of EU values: “… to the extent that Hungary and Poland have argued that there was a breach of the principle of legal certainty - in particular insofar as the regulation does not define either the concept of "rule of law" or the principles relating thereto - that the principles cited in the regulation as part of that concept have been extensively specified in the case-law of the Court of Justice, that these principles Have their roots in common values, also recognized and applied by Member States in their own legal systems, and are based on an understanding of the "rule of law" that Member States share and subscribe to in terms of a value common to their constitutional traditions. Consequently, the Court finds that the Member States are in a position to determine with sufficient precision the essence of each of those principles and the requirements that flow from them.” 

And finally the decisive final sentence of the judgement: "In the circumstances, the Court dismisses the claims of Hungary and Poland in their entirety." (all quotes from: ECJ Press Release No. 28/22).

"The verdict is very clear. The new rule of law mechanism can be implemented,” reports tagesschau.de on February 16.02.2022, XNUMX ("rule of law mechanism is legal"). Worded similarly Thomas Kirchner in a comment in the Süddeutsche Zeitung

“Politically, this judgment sends an unmistakable signal: the EU will not be fooled by governments that disregard essential shared values; Select and discipline judges according to taste or harass free media. She now has weapons in her hands, she no longer has to put up with the tricks and deceptive maneuvers that Poland, for example, has been using for years to cover up its intentions and play for time. The EU will only be able to exist as a community that can be defended. A lot is missing on the outside, but on the inside she is on the right track.” 

sueddeutsche.de, February 16.2.22, XNUMX: "Full armory", commentary by Thomas Kirchner 

But Kirchner is suspicious about the implementation of the verdict:

 “But it (the EU) has not reached its goal yet. This is proven by the reaction of the EU Commission. She intends to "carefully analyze" the verdict before she sets out to develop guidelines for the implementation of the new mechanism. As if these could not have been prepared long ago, after all it was foreseeable how Luxembourg would decide. In the EU Parliament, where Commission President von der Leyen did not show up at a debate on the subject on Wednesday, people are rightly outraged. The Commission may have tactical reasons for doing this, such as the upcoming elections in Hungary, but it cannot be that its hesitancy on rule of law issues seems like a method.” 

sueddeutsche.de, February 16.2.22, XNUMX: "Full armory", commentary by Thomas Kirchner 

A remarkable warning, which takes on a special meaning after the European turning point through Putin's war against Ukraine. 

The ECJ judgment was observed far beyond Europe. In the New York Times reference is made to the same stumbling block in implementation: "The timing of the court decision makes the verdict politically explosive. In a few weeks there will be elections in Hungary and the EU is trying to close ranks in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine (Putin had not yet started the hot war at the time of the verdict) …” (nytimes.com, February 16.002.2022, XNUMX: "Top European Court Rules EU Can Freeze Aid to Poland and Hungary"). The NYT report quotes Daniel friend, Green MEP, stating: “The Ukraine crisis is drawing attention to this process (the implementation of the ECJ ruling); there will be strong efforts towards unity if the situation in Ukraine escalates.” This fear became even more topical on February 24.2.2022, XNUMX, when Russian troops attacked Ukraine in violation of international law. The neighboring EU member states, including Poland and Hungary, have become direct targets of refugees from Ukraine and are doing a tremendous job in receiving and housing them - this has to be appreciated. It becomes problematic when they make public proposals that have not been coordinated in NATO or the EU, such as the call by the PiS politician and Polish deputy prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, to NATO to set up a NATO armed protection force to protect humanitarian transports to Ukraine. Putin is waiting for just such solo efforts in order to break up the closed front of NATO and the EU.

This is one of the connecting points between the original issue – the ECJ's rule of law ruling – and Putin's war, which I will discuss in more detail in the next sections. The almost macabre question arises, whether of all people Vladimir Putin, who is doing everything to weaken NATO and the EU, will help to ensure that "constitutional offenders" such as Poland and Hungary are spared EU sanctions? Putin as "protector" and "liberator" of those allegedly persecuted by the dictatorship in Brussels? A ridiculous notion. There should be another solution to the rule of law problem in the EU.

Putin's illegal war - the turning point

In the months leading up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, there was much media speculation as to whether Putin would actually dare to use brute force to invade Ukraine, which he described as a brother nation, 77 years after the end of World War II in Europe to unleash a hot war. The idea of ​​a war was equally unimaginable for the elderly, who had lived to see the end of the war in 1945, and also for the younger ones, who grew up in a threatened but peaceful continent. 

But true Putin experts and Kremlin experts no longer ruled out the danger of war in Europe. "If Putin wants a Greater Russia, now would be the moment", captioned Sonja Zekri their report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (sueddeutsche.de, 21.02.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX). The Russian President repeatedly lamented the decline of Russia as a great power at the end of the Cold War. The journalist German lopez quoted in the New York Times a more recent statement by Putin, who described the fall of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century' denoted and implied that he wished to reverse this collapse. "Putin's complaints are less ideologically based - he is not a communist and does not govern like one - he is concerned with his own interests: he wants to secure his power and expects even more support at home from an expansion of Russia's global sphere of influence." (nytimes.com – The Morning, 27.02.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "A war on democracies"). 

But Putin is also guided by ideological ideas. Mikhail Zygar, Russian journalist and author of the book “All the Kremlin's Men – Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin” – describes in a guest article in the New York Times that of Putin's close friend and adviser, as well as a shareholder in Rossiya Bank. Yuri Kovalchuk developed ideas for regaining Russia's greatness. Kovalchuk has a doctorate in physics, but he is not only a man of science but also an ideologue whose worldview is made up of orthodox Christian mysticism, anti-American conspiracy theories and hedonism. (Hedonism: ethical teaching of Greek philosophy, according to which the highest goal of all human behavior in the world is the state of happiness of the soul (sa Epicurus); Source: Duden encyclopedia in 3 volumes, Mannheim 1976).

In his NYT op-ed, Zygar writes that, according to advisers, Putin has completely lost interest in the present in the past two years. Economic issues, social issues and the pandemic disgusted him. Instead, he and Kovalchuk are obsessed with the past (nytimes.com, 10.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: “How Vladimir Putin Lost Interest in the Present”).

Similarly writes Frank Nienhuysen in his comment in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Russia is trying to recapture its self-confident neighbors by rattling their sabers. But intimidation won't mend a broken empire." (sueddeutsche.de, 23.02.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Putin's weapons of yesterday"; comment by Frank Nienhuysen).

He gave the marching orders to his invasion troops with a very selective lecture on Russian and Ukrainian history. Sonja Zerki quotes a Soviet proverb: "The past is constantly changing." Quoted in another SZ comment Paul Anton Krueger the German Chancellor, who said after his several-hour conversation with Putin in Moscow that he, Scholz, belongs to a generation for which war in Europe had become unthinkable. "This should be understood more as a moral appeal than as a description of the situation' notes Krueger. "Because no one embodies the fact that war and the threat of it in Europe have long since become a means of politics again than the man who stood next to Scholz in the Kremlin: Russia's president Vladimir Putin.“ (sueddeutsche.de, February 20.02.2022, XNUMX: “Only Putin knows whether there will be a war”).

And indeed, when visiting Olaf Scholz in Moscow on 15.02.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX and also during the previous visit of Emmanuel Macron on February 7.02.2022, XNUMX, the Russian attack plans were long overdue. Putin showed off his two visitors and only pretended that there was still a chance for peace. Before and after his visit to Moscow, Macron spoke to Putin repeatedly on the phone and had more contact with him than any other Western head of government. the Deutsche Welle reports that French diplomats concluded that the Kremlin chief was not averse to engaging in talks with Paris and other European capitals. And this despite his original refusal to talk to the Europeans at all and only US President Joe Biden to be recognized as a negotiating partner (DW, 6.02.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX:  "Macron's diplomatic offensive in Moscow"). Scholz's visit to Moscow, a week later, was described in the Tagesschau as the "last chance for peace?" - albeit with a question mark (tagesschau.de, 15.02.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Last chance for peace?").

Putin has set up NATO as a bugbear, calling out the alleged threat to Russia from NATO as a pretext for the attack on Ukraine, even though Scholz and others had told him that Ukraine's NATO accession was not currently an issue, and although it was from NATO's side was repeatedly declared not to want to intervene in the war.

Just a few days later, on February 24.02.2022, XNUMX, Putin unleashed the fury of war and gave the marching orders for his “special military operation” against drug addicts and neo-Nazis. Anyone who speaks of war in Russia must expect to be punished.

However, the fact that Putin lied to Macron and Scholz may have contributed to NATO and the EU reacting with unusual unity. Putin himself has proved that his words cannot be trusted. The international rating of Russia is negative and now looks like this:         

  • In the UN Security Council on February 25.02.2022, 7.03.2022, Russia was only able to veto a resolution against the invasion of Ukraine by its own veto (Source: Federal Agency for Civic Education; Kurz & Knapp: Eight Questions on the War in Ukraine – March XNUMX, XNUMX)
  • The UN General Assembly condemned the invasion on March 2.03.2022, 141 with 5 votes to 35, with 21 abstentions. Such an emergency meeting was convened for the first time in the 1950st century. In total there have only been 11 such emergency meetings since XNUMX (source: as above).
  • The IOC recommends not allowing Russian athletes to compete in international competitions.
  • Fifa and Uefa banned Russia and Belarus from all club and national team competitions on February 28.02.2022th, XNUMX. As a result, RB Leipzig progressed one round in the Europa League without a fight, as Spartak Moscow is excluded. The Russian national team is excluded from the World Cup playoffs for Qatar. Not only will most Russian athletes no longer be seen on the world sport stage, the logos of most companies and corporations will also disappear. (Source:  Heilbronn voice, 1.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Russia is no longer wanted in world sport")
  • On March 16.03.2022, XNUMX, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the highest court of the United Nations, condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine as contrary to international law. It must be ended immediately. However, the court has no power to enforce the sentence, it seems at first glance to be only symbolic. A passage in the report of Süddeutsche Zeitung is noteworthy: “Russia argued before the Court that Putin’s claim that Ukraine was committing “genocide” against people of Russian origin was not meant literally, at least not within the meaning of the 1948 Genocide Convention” (sueddeutsche.de, March 16.03.2022, XNUMX: "Point for international law"). What a flimsy admission by Putin's paladins.

Whatever the outcome of Putin's Ukraine adventure, large parts of the world will remain suspicious of the Russian government. Putin's successors will face a mountain of unanswered questions. 

On February 23.02.2022, XNUMX, one day before the Russian invasion – described the French government spokesman Gabriel Attal the dilemma that Putin has brought his country into: the advance of Russian nationalism, which is rediscovering its desire for empire, threatens the basic principles of the existence of “our Europe”. "This challenge of European and international security lies ahead of us" (Heilbronn voice, 24.02.2022).

The term turning point has the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz used to describe in his government statement during the special session of the Bundestag on Sunday, February 27.02.2022, XNUMX, what extraordinary consequences the attack triggered by Putin on the sovereign neighboring country, Ukraine, will have for Germany and Europe:

“February 24, 2022 marks a turning point in the history of our continent. With the attack on Ukraine, the Russian president started a war of aggression in cold blood – for one reason: the freedom of the Ukrainians calls his own oppressive regime into question. That is inhuman. This is against international law. Nothing and nobody can justify this.

...

At its heart is the question of whether power can break the law, whether we allow Putin to turn the clock back to the great powers of the 19th century, or whether we have the strength to set limits on warmongers like Putin.

...

Putin's war means a turning point, also for our foreign policy. As much diplomacy as possible without being naïve, that claim remains. But not being naïve also means not talking for the sake of talking.”

Olaf Scholz, special session of the Bundestag (February 27.02.2022, XNUMX)

Ultimately quit Olaf Scholz on February 27.02.2022, XNUMX, a complete reorientation of German foreign and security policy. the Heilbronn voice calls this a historic turning point (Heilbronn voice, February 28.02.2022, XNUMX: "Scholz announces upgrade"), and Christine Tantschinez captioned her comment in the same newspaper with the term “about-face”: “While previous governments preferred to sit out crises and hoped for the “change through trade” mantra, the traffic light coalition is finally making much-needed about-faces. For the first time, arms are officially being delivered to a country beset by an aggressor" (Heilbronn voice, 28.02.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "U-turn"; opinion comment from Christine Tantschinez). 

The New York Times writes in a report on the special session of the Bundestag about a fundamental change of direction not only in German foreign and defense policy but also in relation to Russia. The term "U-Turn", which is commonly used in road traffic, is used to describe the U-turn in a vivid way (nytimes.com, February 27.02.2022, XNUMX: "In Foreign Policy U-Turn, Germany Ups Military Spending, Arms Ukraine").

These are the main focal points of the new German foreign and security policy:

  • "Without ifs and buts we stand by our alliance obligation in NATO" (Olaf Scholz in the Bundestag on February 27.02.2022, XNUMX);
  • For the necessary investments, better equipment, modern deployment equipment and more personnel, a special fund for the Bundeswehr is set up with 100 billion euros and anchored in the Basic Law; 
  • In accordance with the agreements within the framework of NATO, Germany will invest more than 2 percent of its gross domestic product in defense with immediate effect;
  • Germany will procure a modern replacement for the outdated Tornado jets in good time for nuclear sharing. (In the meantime, a preliminary decision has been made for the American F-35 combat aircraft);
  • Germany will change course in order to overcome the import dependency on individual energy suppliers. The Federal Chancellor announced the rapid construction of 2 liquid gas terminals in Brunsbüttel and Wilhelmshaven.

Even before the special session of the Bundestag on February 27.02.2022, 2, the federal government had put the "Nord Stream 1.000" gas pipeline on hold and announced the delivery of 500 anti-tank weapons and XNUMX Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine.

One passage in the government statement strikes me as particularly noteworthy - it concerns the future of Europe and the European Union: 

“The turning point does not only affect our country, it affects all of Europe. And therein lies a challenge and an opportunity at the same time. The challenge is to sustainably and permanently strengthen the sovereignty of the European Union. The opportunity lies in the fact that we maintain the unity that we have demonstrated over the past few days, keyword 'sanctions package'. For Germany and for all other member states of the EU, this means not just asking what you can get out of Brussels for your own country, but asking: What is the best decision for the Union?”

Olaf Scholz, special session of the Bundestag (February 27.02.2022, XNUMX)

Scholz addresses the old and new challenges that the EU is facing at this turning point. But he also speaks of the chances of overcoming these challenges through the unity of the EU member states. This passage brings me back to the starting point of this paper, which is about the drifting apart and splitting of the EU, and also the isolation that countries like Poland and Hungary have found themselves in because of their nationalist and autocratic policies. Elsewhere I will ask whether the turning point does not also offer Poland and Hungary an opportunity to overcome this isolation and learn to think in European terms again.

Putin's miscalculations

It would be presumptuous if I wanted to present the causes and background of Putin's war in detail in a few sections of this paper, the actual starting point of which is the rule of law judgment of the ECJ of February 16.02.2022, XNUMX, and then draw a line connecting the two events. This is far beyond the scope of this paper. However, I would like to address a key word that will probably still make things difficult for Putin and his country even after the end of the war – whatever the outcome: Putin's misjudgments on which his decision to invade Ukraine is based.

The first questions arose when, just a few days after the invasion, the Russian advance on Kyiv – despite great military superiority and firepower – stalled for initially unclear reasons. As things progressed, a mosaic of large and small errors in the preparations for the invasion resulted in an overall picture that now casts doubt on Putin's genius.

In this context, statements by experts and reports by the media mentioned three complexities in particular, which Putin misjudged or which he apparently only dealt with superficially.

  • The steadfastness and fighting spirit of the Ukrainian military and civilian population and the leadership skills of the Ukrainian President Voldomir Zelensky;
  • The unity of NATO and the EU, the scope and direction of the sanctions decided and their impact on the Russian economy and society;
  • The question of how long and how firmly the majority of the Russian population will stand behind their president's war.

(1) Of military and civilian steadfastness

"Putin fails in blitzkrieg" (Heilbronn voice, 1.03.2022)

It is hard to imagine that Putin himself believed what he had his soldiers say at the beginning of the invasion on February 24.02.2022, XNUMX: the Ukrainians would welcome them with flowers in their hands as "liberators". Another of Putin's expectations was also not fulfilled: that the invasion of Ukraine, which had been planned as a lightning war, would end after a few days with the invasion of Kyiv. The opposite happened!

On March 7.03.2022th, 12 – the XNUMXth day of the war – the New York Times that, according to conservative American estimates, the Ukrainian military, who had been outnumbered in many ways, killed more than 3.000 Russian soldiers. “Ukrainians took down Russian military transporters carrying paratroopers, destroyed helicopters, and punched holes in Russian military convoys with American anti-tank missiles and Turkish drones.” The Russian soldiers suffered from both low morale and fuel shortages, according to this report. The conclusion of the New York Times:  "European military leaders, who once feared the Russians, now say they are not as intimidated by Russian ground forces as they used to be.“ (nytimes.com, 7.03.2022/15.03.2022/XNUMX: "As Russia's Military Stumbles, It's Adversaries Take Note"). On March XNUMX, XNUMX, a headline in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: "Putin now understands that he was misled before invading Ukraine."

However, Putin has recognized the weaknesses of his ground forces and changed his strategy. The Ukrainian General Staff reports that the Russians have now proceeded to the total destruction of civilian infrastructure, housing and livelihoods (nytimes.com, March 18.03.2022, XNUMX: "Russia's military progress slows, but it makes gains in the south and east"). Putin is now destroying the livelihoods of the people he had just described as “brotherly people”.

The way in which the Ukrainian President is acting in his country's crisis is extremely remarkable. Heribert Prantl designates him in the Süddeutsche Zeitung than the Ukrainian David: "He speaks with the authority of brave self-assertion and the courage of desperation, whose desperation is not noticeable because he is at peace with himself.(sueddeutsche.de, March 13.03.2022, XNUMX: “Zelensky, the Ukrainian David”; column “Prantls Blick”). Tactically adept, Zelensky addresses the Russian military and the people of Russia with urgent appeals in the language of the invaders, provoking reflection on whether Putin's war goals can justify the increasing number of casualties. Whether the appeals bear fruit is another matter. They are helpful even if they raise doubts over time.

A dubious figure on the brink of Ukraine's misfortune should also be mentioned: the former American president Donald Trump, who once wanted to force Selensky with the reluctance of American military aid to give him “dirt” for the election campaign against Joe Biden to deliver. "Imagine if that happened in Trump's time," he writes Joachim Kaeppner in a comment in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and paints this picture drastically: “If Putin had given the order for the invasion just a year and a half earlier … then the White House would not have Joe Biden governs, who now evokes the unity of the free world and sends soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division to the eastern border of NATO as a deterrent ... In Washington instead that political horror clown would have been up to mischief who is now flattering Putin, how "brilliant" and "clever" he is war of aggression against the hopelessly defeated Ukraine." (sueddeutsche.de, February 27.02.2022, XNUMX: “Putin chose the wrong time, after all”; comment by Joachim captain).   

Käppner is referring here to Trump's praise for Putin, which he made public in an interview on February 22.02.2022, XNUMX - after Putin had moved troops to eastern Ukraine. "This is the largest peacekeeping force I've ever seen. There were more tanks there than I've ever seen' gushed Trump (sueddeutsche.de, 23.02.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: How ex-President Trump stabs his successor in the back”).

"Biden is made for this moment", quoted Hubert Wezel in a detailed report from Washington, the former CIA employee Marc Polymeropoulos, who was responsible for secret CIA missions in Europe and Russia for several years. "Europe has always been the main battleground for our struggle with Russia. And Ukraine was ground zero.Wetzel writes:Joe Biden is not Donald Trump, for this reason alone many Europeans are delighted that he is currently President."Biden is a man who knows the Cold War not only from the movies - and has always considered Putin dangerous." (sueddeutsche.de, 21.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Biden is perfect for this moment").

As in previous posts, I could again raise the question of what might happen if Trump were to return to the White House in 2024. But Putin's war has also triggered a rethink in the USA - whether it will be a political turning point for Trump's Republican Party is still completely open. In a report, the New York Times Politician statements from both sides of the political spectrum suggesting a shift in focus in the United States. "Ukraine has made many Republicans ponder the importance of international alliances," the Republican congressman said Tom Cole from Oklahoma. “Other countries are not always just a burden. They are often an asset as well.” Senator chris coons, Democrat of Delaware and close confidant of President Biden, noted that one had to go back to 9/11 (the 11.09.2001/XNUMX/XNUMX terrorist attacks) to see such a cohesive engagement (nytimes.com,March 15.03.2022, XNUMX: “Ukraine War Shifts the Agenda in Congress, Empowering the Center”). 

The acid test of whether Republicans are actually strong enough to break free from Trump's "America first" and from Trumpism will be the naming of the candidate for the 2024 presidential election. In the mentioned report Süddeutsche Zeitung Hubert Wezel There is an important note: "The name Trump is often mentioned in Washington, accompanied by a sigh of relief." A lot of water will still flow down the Potomac River by 2024, but - what an irony of fate: dignity of all things Vladimir Putin, whom Trump has always admired and almost idolized, screw up Trump's plans for re-election to the White House? 

(2) The unity of NATO and the EU

The Russian President not only misjudged the military resistance against his troops, he also – based on previous experiences – did not reckon with the current unity of NATO and the EU. Putin should have known better, because even before the invasion began, politicians from Europe and the US had warned him about an unprecedented package of sanctions. Putin didn't believe the warnings and ignored them. 

Yaroslav Hrytsak, historian and professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, describes in a guest article in the New York Times Two misjudgments by Putin: The (already mentioned) expectation that the Russian troops would be greeted with flowers when they invaded. And in that hope and expectation – similar to what happened after the war against Georgia in 2008 – the West would also silently swallow the aggression against Ukraine. "But Ukraine met renewed Russian aggression with heroic courage – and united the West.The historian Hrytsak – who recently published a work on the history of Ukraine – contrasts the Putinian coffee-ground reading that Ukraine and Russia are in reality one country and Ukraine does not exist with the historical facts: 

“Ukrainians and Russians do not differ fundamentally in language, religion or culture – they are relatively close in this respect – the main difference lies in their political traditions. In short, a democratic revolution is all but impossible in Russia, while a lasting authoritarian government is all but impossible in Ukraine.” 

nytimes.com, 19.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Putin Made a Profound Miscalculation on Ukraine", guest article by Yaroslav Hrytsak

On February 20.02.2022, XNUMX - four days before the Russian invasion - the President of the EU Commission resigned Ursula von der Leyen in the event that the Russian army invades Ukrainian territory, a “major package of sanctions” that the EU foreign ministers approved on February 21.02.2022, XNUMX. The package was put together in close cooperation with partners, including the USA and Great Britain, and aims in particular to cut off Russia from the international financial markets and to use an export embargo to prevent the export of goods and technology that Russia " urgently needs to modernize and diversify its economy" - away from oil, gas and coal production (sueddeutsche.de, January 21.01.2022, XNUMX: “EU plans comprehensive sanctions against Russia”).    

In a video link of the NATO member states, the following was essentially decided:

  • The clear commitment to mutual assistance according to Art. 5 of the NATO treaty.
  • Arms deliveries to Ukraine.
  • Deployment of troops to Poland and the Baltic states (later also to states on the south-eastern flank of NATO).
  • Active intervention by NATO in the Ukraine war was ruled out.

The SPD chairman summed up the state of affairs after Putin recognized parts of eastern Ukraine as “independent people's republics” and immediately before the Russian invasion Lars Klingbeil together in a few sentences:

“Vladimir Putin underestimated the determination and unity of the European Union and the United States. It is good how united the EU and the transatlantic partners are in this situation. Putin has isolated himself internationally and will pay a heavy price for it. It is now up to him to make an effective contribution to ensuring that the situation does not escalate further.” 

newsletter@spd.de, 22.02.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Putin has slapped away the outstretched hand of Europe"

Kurt Kister wrote in a comment in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: 

"It is uncertain how much longer Ukraine can hold out militarily, perhaps the Strela (anti-aircraft missiles supplied by Germany) will help. But it is just as uncertain whether this invasion will not also mean the political end of the Russian president. In a gigantic misjudgment, Putin launched a war whose consequences he believed to be somewhat greater than the annexation of Crimea. However, he has achieved almost complete international banning of Russia. " 

sueddeutsche.de, 3.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Putin and his gigantic misjudgment", commentary by Kurt Kister)

Part of this misjudgment was also the scope of the sanctions package of the EU and other western countries. The long-term effects on the Russian economy cannot yet be estimated, but press reports indicate that they are having an effect.

The Heilbronn voice reported on 3.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX that the value of the ruble has “plunged into the abyss” (Heilbronn voice, 3.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "War plunges Ukraine and Russia into chaos"). the New York Times adds that the ruble lost almost half of its value in the last month. Basic food prices have risen sharply. The Moscow Stock Exchange has been closed since the beginning of the war; the central bank has implemented strict capital controls that prohibit businesses from withdrawing more than $6 in the next 5.000 months (nytimes.com, March 10.03.2022, 24.03.2022: "Facing economic calamity, Putin talks of nationalizing Western business"). Stock trading on the stock exchange resumed on March 33, XNUMX. However, only shares of XNUMX Russian companies were traded (ARD Tagesschau on 24.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX).

Putin's spokesman Dimitri Peskov admitted that the Western sanctions were a serious blow (Heilbronn voice, 3.03.2022).

Also the American economist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman refers in his column in the New York Times on Putin's military misjudgments. Putin expected, to be able to march quickly through to Kyiv with a small and lightly armed force and win a quick victory. Krugman describes the economic sanctions as “highly effective”; Putin did not expect them because of the experiences with the Crimea annexation. Krugman writes: "So far, the pressure on the Russian economy seems extremely effective; in Russian trade it even affects goods that have not been officially sanctioned. Financial restrictions have made trading goods with Russia - even buying oil - more difficult. Fears of further sanctions, as well as general fears that Western institutions that appear to be helping Putin are being treated rudely by the authorities, have led to widespread self-sanctioning, even for goods that are formally permitted.“(nytimes.com, 4.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Wonking Out: Putin's Other Big Miscalculation"). 

There is no doubt that the imposed sanctions are also affecting the economy of the West. A message from the Heilbronn voice effect: “According to financial experts, the economic consequences of the Russia sanctions in Germany are limited. The measures against the Russian central bank are attributed the greatest impact" (Heilbronn voice, March 21.03.2022, XNUMX: "Effect of the sanctions"). However, the sanctions do not have the same effect on the western economy, because the ties with Russia are not the same in all areas.

After a number of multinational companies and retail chains closed their factories and stores in Russia - for example Ikea, McDonald's and others - Putin is considering confiscating their assets and nationalizing the companies in order to save the jobs affected (nytimes.com, March 10.03.2022, XNUMX: “Facing economic calamity, Putin talks of nationalizing Western businesses”). Such a step would have long-term consequences. No matter how the war ends and what might happen in Russia afterwards, any Western company would think twice before investing in Russia again. 

(3) A turning point in Russia too? — How united is the population behind Putin's war?

It is currently difficult to give a clear answer to the question of how united the Russian population is behind Putin's war. Watching the cheering crowds in and outside Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium at the event marking the 8th anniversary of the annexation of Crimea, one would have to conclude that all of Russia is 100 percent "on board." However, if one assesses the pressure exerted by those in power on the population, the threat of punishment even for people who use the word "war" contrary to the official terminology, or the brutal police violence with which even small approaches to public protest are combated, one has to conclude from this : Putin does not trust his compatriots. You are forced to stand behind him. 

How long will they accept that the "special military operation" is aimed only at "ridding" Ukraine of "drug-addicted neo-Nazis"? How long will they believe that the "brother people" are researching and developing weapons of mass destruction and biological weapons together with the US military right on the Russian border? Such "stories" told Vasily Nebenzya, the Permanent UN Representative of Russia on March 11.03.2022, XNUMX in the UN Security Council. "A nasty lie, even for the Russian propaganda apparatus, which is working at full capacity in these times," quotes the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung plus German and American diplomats. Also unproven is Moscow's claim that Russia had to capture Chernobyl to prevent Ukraine from building a "dirty" radiological bomb (sueddeutsche.de, 29.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "The most dangerous lie"). It is a well-known fact that in times of war the truth dies first. The Americans told similar lies many years ago in the Security Council to justify the Second Iraq War.

Made just before the Russian invasion Madeleine Albright (US Secretary of State from 1997-2001) gives a prognosis that gives hope and fear at the same time: “Putin must know that a second Cold War will not necessarily end well for Russia – despite its nuclear arsenal. The United States has strong allies on almost every continent - among Putin's friends there are now figures like Bashar al-Assad, Alexander Lukashenko and Kim Jong-un“ (nytimes.com, February 23.02.2202, XNUMX: "Putin Is Making a Historical Mistake"; guest post by Madeleine Albright). Among other things, she describes how she was the first high-ranking American diplomat to meet Yeltsin's successor Putin for the first time in early 2000: He pretended to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall, but he hadn't expected the entire Soviet Union to collapse would. At the time, she noted about her conversation with Putin: "Putin is embarrassed by what has happened to his country and he is determined to restore its greatness.” Madeleine Albright has her guest post in the New York Times captioned with the prognosis: "Putin is making a historic mistake.' The prophecy of a dedicated diplomat with a fascinating life story: Madeleine Albright died a month later, on March 23.03.2022, XNUMX.

Ordinary Russians are unlikely to think as far-sightedly as this at present Madeleine Albright has done. But with the increasing duration and brutality of the war, some people will wonder whether the entire basis of their livelihoods must first be destroyed before the Ukrainian brother nation can be “brought home”? Like the Americans during the Vietnam War, the Russian government will have to make the bitter experience: as the number of coffins with dead soldiers returning from Ukraine increases, the population's enthusiasm for the war will dwindle. 

The New York Times reports on March 16.03.2022, 20 for the first 7.000 days of the war more than 14.000 fallen Russian soldiers and around 21.000 - 4 wounded. 36 Russian generals died. The newspaper relies on cautious estimates by the US secret service. A specific comparison makes these casualty numbers particularly vivid for the Americans: During the XNUMX-day Battle of the Pacific Island Iwo Jima nearly 7.000 US Marines lost their lives in World War II; Putin's army has already recorded more casualties after 20 days. The number of fallen Russian soldiers is higher than the number of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined (nytimes.com, 16.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "As Russian Troop Deaths Climb, Morale Becomes an Issue, Officials Say").

"Beyond geography, Putin considers 'Russia' to be a supreme being, a very great feeling, something eternal”, writes Kurt Kister in der Süddeutsche Zeitung (sueddeutsche.de, 26.02.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "A man takes off"). Such a metaphysical understanding of the state cannot be maintained in the long term - and not even with strong state coercion. His public appearances since the beginning of the invasion show that Putin is aware of this problem and how tense he is about it. the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports on an emotionally charged keynote speech that he gave on March 16.03.2022, XNUMX at a meeting with several regional heads, although the meeting should have primarily dealt with economic issues and the consequences of the sanctions. While the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hinted at the possibility of a negotiated solution that same day, Putin pulled the ball out of the West. There, people from Russia would now “really be hounded, Russian music, culture and literature would be banned. The West tried to "abolish Russia" and Putin went so far as to compare the situation to the pogroms in Germany in the XNUMXs. But Putin sharply attacked not only the West but also the Russians who sympathize with it. He called them "fifth columnists," "scum and traitors" (sueddeutsche.de, 17.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Scum and Traitors"). These blanket statements – as well as the threat of punishment against the media and fellow human beings who do not follow the official terminology – show, in my opinion, that Putin does not trust his fellow countrymen. Surveillance and also propaganda have been ramped up – none of this speaks for the inner strength of the system.

I don't want to speculate about the progress and duration of the war and how it might end sooner or later. "The longer the war drags on, the greater the disproportion between effort and result becomes for Putin," writes Gustav Seibt in der Süddeutsche Zeitung". Putin's regime is not prepared for retreat and compromises, but this is not only his problem (sueddeutsche.de, 17.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "In the end"). The number of players on and around the battlefield is growing. China is heavily involved politically and above all economically. The Chinese ruler Xi Jinping Apparently trying a seesaw policy: At the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on February 4.02.2022, 2.03.2022, not a single sheet of paper between Xi and Putin seemed to fit in their opposition to the West. China abstained from voting on the Ukraine resolution in the UN General Assembly on March XNUMXnd, XNUMX. "China and the Ukraine dilemma" is the headline of a report from Beijing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung"  (sueddeutsche.de, 23.02.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX). Another SZ report describes Beijing's balancing act as an attempt to appear to the outside world as a neutral, mediating power in the Ukraine conflict, while at home Russian propaganda – right down to the choice of words – is being spread. "Peacemakers here, arsonists there" - "This balancing act is not without risk for China's president, who wants to secure another term as party leader in the fall" ... "If Beijing's strategy fails, this could also have domestic political consequences. The Chinese economy is weakening, the sanctions against Russia are weighing on the global economy. Sanctions by the West or increasing isolation must be avoided by Beijing itself" (sueddeutsche.de, February 22.02.2022, XNUMX.: “How long will Beijing be loyal to Putin?”).

At some point, after the end of the hot war in Ukraine, there will be new considerations about a future security concept in Europe. This will – if Russia wants to be involved – only be possible after Putin's rule. Time: Totally open!

A turning point – also in Poland and Hungary?

After these statements and reflections on Putin's war against Ukraine, which is basically directed against Western ideas of freedom, the rule of law and democracy and has fundamentally changed Europe, now back to the starting point of this paper: the internal situation and in particular the unresolved problems of the European Union. The core of my presentation should be the rule of law problem after the ECJ judgment against Poland and Hungary of February 16.02.2022, XNUMX and the refugee problem, which has become particularly acute as a result of Putin's war. The war has brought a number of other issues to the fore, such as security in Europe, the readiness of European states to defend themselves, and securing the EU's energy needs. But the "old" problems are still there and are also addressed in the press.

In an opinion commentary Heilbronn voice provides Christopher Ziedler the unified approach of the EU and the rapid adoption of the well-prepared sanctions against Russia. He quotes from the summit declaration of the meeting of heads of state and government in Versailles on March 10th/11.03.2022th, XNUMX the targets for achieving the energy policy, economic and military independence of the EU: “IWhat catches the eye is the obligation to increase armaments spending and the gradual detachment from the import of fossil fuels from Russia.When describing the future EU, Ziedler uses the term “independent states of Europe”, which in future should be able to defend their own model of freedom and life in a world full of new dangers. But he adds – dampening the hopes of convinced Europeans: “But there is still a long way to go, because the contradictions and conflicts inherent in Europe did not disappear overnight." (Heilbronn voice, March 12.03.2022, XNUMX: “Independent States of Europe”; opinion comment from Christopher Ziedler). 

In fact, they are all still there, the old conflicts, such as the rule of law and the implementation of the ECJ judgment of February 16.02.2022, XNUMX. The many-year-old stalemate about a European concept on the subject of “refugees, asylum and migration” is still there, the need for which has become clear again in recent weeks. For the refugees from Ukraine, the EU very quickly found a welcome arrangement. But what about the refugees from other countries, such as Syria. There are now two types of refugee law in the EU – this cannot be permanent. 

How high on the agenda do these old contradictions and conflicts remain? Or will they be pushed far down or even behind the curtain by the new energy policy, economic and military challenges? 

My skepticism increased when on March 3.03.2022rd, XNUMX in the Heilbronn voice a dpa report with 4 lines was published in the “Brief notes” section on page 13: On March 2.03.2022nd, XNUMX, the EU Commission presented the guidelines for the implementation of the EU rules on reducing funds in the event of violations of the rule of law (Heilbronn voice, March 3.03.2022, XNUMX: "Guideline submitted"). But do they currently play any role in the political business in Poland and Hungary? With mixed feelings I read about the ongoing discussions in Poland after the Russian invasion of Ukraine: 

"Poland welcomes the U-turn in Germany not only with joy - based on the conviction that it was right in its assessment of Putin's Russia - but also with the pragmatism that is characteristic of the country" ...

– “For many years, the pacifist and “Russia-sensitive” Germany was perceived by the majority of the political elite on the Vistula as an insecure and fickle state that could not be counted on in the event of a threat from the East. Added to this was Nord Stream 1 and 2, which ran counter to Polish and Central European interests and forever with the short-sightedness of Ostpolitik Angela Merkel will stay connected.”

– “In Warsaw, the question is how long the change initiated by Olaf Scholz will last, how long Berlin will speak “Polish” when it comes to the threat to the free world from Russia’s aggressive actions. Politicians from all camps are puzzling over how long Germany will stay on its new “realistic” path.”


ipg journal, 4.3.22; Bartosz Rydlinski: "The Day Berlin Started Speaking Polish"

The scientist Bartosz Rydlinski from the Institute for Political Science at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw holds up a mirror to German politics: the “change through rapprochement/trade” approach has not only proven to be ineffective, but has also been cynically exploited by the Putin regime.

But Rydlinski also shows another aspect: he names the still open status of the discussions in the Polish ruling party and uses the word "chance" to shape the future relationship between Germany and Poland, which is also used to improve the relationship between Poland and the EU should:

However, it is also unclear how Poland's ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) will react in the long term. On the one hand, the Polish Prime Minister celebrates Mateusz Morawiecki after Scholz's Sunday speech triumphs because his visit to Berlin the day before, as he claims, "shook Germany's conscience". On the other hand, we should remember that Vice Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in the weekly newspaper in January Sieci declared: “The designation 'Fourth Reich' is (...) legitimate. The Germans openly proclaim that they are the ones who decide (...). she demand the official recognition of German supremacy. And one can, in a way, thank the new German coalition for setting the record straight by declaring the goal of creating a European federal state, under their leadership of course.

...

So it could turn out that the Polish national right has to stop seeing Germany as a threat - just as Germany has revised its attitude towards Russia. Even PiS voters could see closer cooperation between Warsaw and Berlin as an opportunity to increase their security.”

ipg journal, 4.3.22; Bartosz Rydinski: "The Day Berlin Started Speaking Polish"

The problems of the EU with the forthcoming implementation of the ECJ judgment - basically it is about the defense of European values ​​- are clearly indicated with these contributions to the discussion from Poland: For some it will be about the very own foundations of the EU, for Poland and Hungary is about a lot of money. 

The New York Times describes another direction of current Polish politics, which is little talked about, which is probably not appropriate to talk about at the moment: “Poland’s right-wing populist government is trying to shake off its reputation as a persistent troublemaker in Europe, or at least to cover it up. She is now at the center of events, courted by both Brussels and the United States as the pillar of Western solidarity and security. But although there are no signs of retreating from the many disputes with the European Union, Poland - which has also bickered with Washington - has reoriented itself to become an indispensable and trusted ally" (nytimes.com, 25.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Long on Europe's Fringe, Poland Takes Center Stage as War Rages in Ukraine").

Another process from the series of reorientation attempts by Poland should be described:

With the train journey of the heads of government of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia on March 15.03.2022, XNUMX, which also Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland's "strongman" took part, the deals New York Times in a detailed report. It is noted, among other things, that Kaczynski made no statements about the motives for the trip. “Except for moral support for Kyiv, European leaders did not bring any concrete help. The train journey, however, helped Kaczynski maintain his earlier enthusiastic relationships with Europe's most prominent Putin fans - (eg Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini) – or even to Putin himself.”

The Polish opposition described the trip as a political stunt. Also judge similarly Ryszard Schnepf, the former Polish ambassador to the United States: "Given his (Kaczynski's) attitude towards the EU, we are very concerned about his sudden and rather risky train journey. He's just doing PR and trying to repair the damage that years of undermining the EU and chumping with Putin's friends have done in Europe.” (nytimes.com, March 18.03.2022, XNUMX: "War in Ukraine Prompts a Political Makeover in Poland"). 

The question of whether the current discussions in Poland will lead to a fundamental rethinking of Poland's relationship with the EU, and whether there will be a change in Poland's attitude to the issue of refugees, asylum and migration, still seems completely unanswered.

Joseph Kelnberger gives in a comment in the Süddeutsche Zeitung clear answers:

“The anti-democratic, illiberal, corrupt Orban system did not disappear on February 24. Nor has the attack on the separation of powers stopped in Poland, where the government wants to subject the judiciary to its will and ignore European jurisprudence. If the EU were to drop the proceedings against the two countries under the impression of the Ukraine crisis, it would be sacrificing its core. Then she might as well abolish herself.

...

The governments in Warsaw and Budapest appear to be expecting some kind of discount on the rule of law for their performance in the Ukraine crisis. There can't be. So there is not much more left than the hope that the EU, welded together by the image of Putin as the enemy, will also come together on this issue. Recently, however, differences between the two countries have emerged. The Polish government is trying, at least half-heartedly, to find solutions with the EU. Also their moderating influence on Viktor Orban It is thanks to this that the EU has so far been able to unanimously impose all sanctions against Putin. Orban wants to continue doing business with Putin and has little else in mind than his own advantage. In a few weeks, Hungarian voters could oust him. You would also be doing the EU a favor by doing so.” 

sueddeutsche.de, March 10.03.2022, XNUMX: "United in danger", commentary by Josef Kelnberger

Kelnberger's statements sound pessimistic. Perhaps he has an inkling of what contortions the EU bodies can be capable of in order to put off long-overdue decisions. The commentary makes one thing clear: the EU must not offset the “sins” of Poland and Hungary in terms of European values, the rule of law and the recognition of the ECJ or the blocking attitude towards the European refugee concept against the current contributions to European unity against Putin and the achievements in admission of refugees from Ukraine. It is precisely these achievements, this "new welcoming culture" of the Eastern European countries that is remarkable. Poland has taken in, housed and is working to provide care for over 2 million people, mostly women and children. The question is whether the country will extend this "welcome culture" to other refugees and will no longer block the European concept. The PiS government in Warsaw does not have a clear majority in parliament and is dependent on the support of radical EU opponents. It is therefore unclear whether PiS is strong enough to actually settle the years of disputes with Brussels.

As soon as the concrete implementation of the ECJ judgment is pending, when it is actually a question of enforcing funding cuts for Poland and Hungary, there will be heated and emotionally charged discussions at all EU levels. Funding cuts, sanctions against EU member states? The notion of sanctions has taken on a completely different dimension and meaning since the start of Putin's war. Russia, the aggressor violating international law, is being sanctioned. But Poland and Hungary? How can you punish Poland, for example, which, according to the ZDF heute-journal of March 26.03.2022, 26.03.2022, has become a “frontline state”? Can a “front-line state” be threatened with a court judgment after “front-line state” Poland has become a key hub for supporting Ukraine with arms, military equipment and civilian supplies? On March XNUMX, XNUMX, the US President Joe Biden gave a historic speech in Warsaw and described the war in Ukraine as a struggle between democracy and autocracy, between a rules-based order and a government of brute force (nytimes.com, 26.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "In a Fiery Speech, Biden Warns of a Battle Between 'Liberty and Repression'").

But – beyond all the open questions and uncertainties mentioned – there are other questions: What weight do all the words and deeds against Putin’s war and for the unity of the West have if the convicted “sinners” finally use Putin’s aggression to get out of trouble wanted to leave?

How will the turning point ultimately affect Poland's current and future politics? The Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki takes credit for having "shaken Germany's conscience" through his visit to Berlin on February 26.02.2022, XNUMX and to that of Olaf Scholz to have contributed to the turning point announced the day after. Will the government in Warsaw also take the opportunity that lies in this turning point in Europe and try to learn to think and speak European again? The answer also depends not least on the elections taking place in Hungary on April 3.04.2022, XNUMX. Should Viktor Orban voted out, the Polish government will lose its key ally to Brussels and will be forced to reposition itself so as not to stand alone and isolated.

A turning point in Hungary? — There will be an election on April 3rd 

Similar to the nationalist and populist parties and politicians in other European countries - and even like Donald Trump in the USA – see you Viktor Orban before the Hungarian elections on April 3.04.2022, XNUMX, he was confronted with his previous relationship with Putin. Orban has long been the Kremlin's biggest supporter in Europe. The opposition presented the voters with the following alternative: “Orban and Putin or the West and Europe.” The New York Times reported that Orban's party Fidesz marginally ahead in the polls and backed by the broad phalanx of pro-government media outlets that portray Orban as a bulwark against the bloodshed spreading to Hungary (nytimes.com, March 18.03.2022, XNUMX: "War in Ukraine Prompts a Political Makeover in Poland"). 

similar reports Catherine Kahlweit from Budapest in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: "Two weeks before the parliamentary elections in Hungary are staged Viktor Orban as prince of peace and protector of freedom. His opponents feel they have been transported back to communist times.One sentence in Kahlweit's report sounds pessimistic: "Many intellectuals no longer believe in a democratic awakening(sueddeutsche.de, March 18.03.2022, XNUMX: “The master of propaganda”). 

The NYT columnist sees this in contrast Michelle goldberg a chance for the opposition to defeat the autocrat Orban for the first time in more than a decade. Goldberg's report also makes it clear how divided Hungarian society is and how profound and fundamental the voting decision will be. is quoted Peter Marki-Zay, the joint lead candidate of the 6 opposition parties opposed to Orban Fidesz have merged. Marki-Zay said Hungary must now choose between two worlds: Vladimir Putins Russia or the liberal West. "Putin and Orban belong to the autocratic, repressive, poor and corrupt world and we have to choose Europe, the West, NATO, democracy, rule of law, freedom of the press, a very different world" (nytimes.com, 18.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Dispatch From Hungary: The Man Trying to Return His Country to the Free World").

The list of opposition candidates shows all the construction sites in Hungarian politics, all the points of contention between Brussels and Budapest and, above all, shows how far Orban's Hungary has moved away from the values ​​of the European Union. This makes it understandable why many intellectuals no longer believe in a democratic awakening. This skepticism also sounds from interview statements by Ferenc Laczo, Assistant Professor of History at Maastricht University: 

"I would bet my money on the opposition getting more votes than Orban's fidesz party, that but the Fidesz retains its parliamentary majority. The division of Hungary's electoral districts is so rigged that the opposition would have to win by a margin of 4 to 5 percent in order to form a government. The resources on both sides are very unequally distributed. The shameless appropriation of state funds by the Fidesz at. Nevertheless, I believe that the result will be very close. The opposition has a good chance of getting the most votes. But it takes more than that to win the election.” 

ipg journal, 25.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "With combined forces", interview with Ferenc Laczo

Laczo points out that the Hungarian population is very pro-European. And he entertains - with a view to the developments in Hungary Viktor Orban – the mirror in front of the EU:

 “Many find … the European response to Orban's actions since 2010 quite disappointing. After the transition process and the many accession criteria that Hungary had to meet, the opposition had hoped and probably also expected that the EU would react much more robustly to the country's democratic decline. The opposition remained positive towards Europe and the West, while Orban violated fundamental norms in increasingly brazen ways. By tolerating the Orban regime for years, the EU risks alienating the country's democratic, pro-European forces." 

ipg journal, 25.03.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "With combined forces", interview with Ferenc Laczo

It is clear that in Hungary the elections on April 3.04.2022, XNUMX are about much more than a new parliament. Catherine Kahlweit describes the election campaign, "a culture struggle, a camp struggle, a struggle between two worlds connected in speechlessness" be. 

Where is Hungary going? Viktor Orban is not a European in terms of political thinking, for him and his party Brussels only provides the means to stay in power. A turnaround towards European thinking and acting is not to be expected from him. Hungary is the European paradigm of democracies dying. If he wins the election on April 3.04.2022, XNUMX, the EU has no choice but to apply the rule of law mechanism confirmed by the ECJ. 

  • Dear Mr. Müller, thank you very much for this very informative article. But I have my doubts as to whether there is actually a "turning point" in German politics. After an initial shock and a corresponding speech by the chancellor, German politics is now trying to get back on track. In the meantime, one believes again that one can simply sit it out.

    And in view of the escalating threat posed by Putin's dictatorship, the trend reversal in terms of the rule of law is being happily put on hold, especially by German politicians. Russia, Poland and Hungary would not be in such a bad state today if Germany were aware of its responsibility for Europe and promoted democracy instead of pursuing purely economic interests.

    Unfortunately - even after more than 70 years - democracy and human rights are still a bargaining chip in our country.