The European Union has long criticized its East European members — the former Soviet satellites Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic — for alleged “authoritarian” tendencies. The George Soros-backed, open-borders policy favored by Western European leaders has long been a sore point between East and West, with East European leaders refusing to admit millions of economic migrants from the Middle East and other world crisis spots whom they see as a threat to their security, culture and identity as a people.
Viktor Orban’s government in Hungary has also aggressively gone after Soros-backed critics in his country, following in the footsteps of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who kicked out Mr. Soros’s Open Society NGOs years before. Mr. Orban has even had his security agencies develop a file on the Hungarian-born Mr. Soros’s activities, created a massive marketing campaign against unlimited migration policies, and even attempted to shut down Central European University in Budapest, birthed by Mr. Soros after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
However, it is the cage fight over judicial reform pitting Poland against the European Council and its President Donald Tusk, himself a Pole, that has brought into focus the dramatically different views of the world in Europe’s two halves.
According to Poland’s Law and Justice Party of Poland, which now rules with a massive mandate from voters to enact the traditional, conservative, populist policies it was elected on, the judicial system it inherited was infected with leftist, communist judges who were unaccountable to the people, blocking the ruling party’s reform agenda.
Under the old system in Poland, an unelected “panel” of judges nominated future judges to the bench. The Law and Justice Party enacted legislation to move this function to the legislative branch, similar to the process in the United States and many countries in Western Europe. There were additional measures which also gave the ruling party the ability to fire certain judges on the highest court in the land in a bid to “cleanse” the court of its communist past. Some of the members of the court literally handed down Communist Party dictates before the Berlin Wall fell.
Progressive heads exploded in the European Parliament and legal sanctions were initiated against Warsaw over the judicial program. Poland has made some concessions under threat of EU budget reductions, but the fight continues.
An outsider could be forgiven for being confused over the debate, and could see room for a reasonable compromise.
But the real conflict was brought into stark relief late last week when the president of the European Commission, the body that implements the EU’s day-to-day functions, Jean-Claude Juncker, made a trip to Trier, Germany, to celebrate the 200th birthday of native son Karl Marx, the founder of communism and author of “The Communist Manifesto.”
Mr. Juncker gave a speech and helped unveil a huge bronze statue of Marx, donated by China. Mr. Juncker argued that Marx had been wrongly blamed for the excesses committed in his name and was not responsible for the 200 million deaths that his ideology generated in the 20th century.
The EC president’s comments were nothing less than shocking, and highly instructive as to how the leadership of the European Union views its citizens, its members, and its role in world politics.
Of course Mr. Juncker does not want Poland to remove communist judges. Of course Mr. Juncker does not want the people to rule. Of course he wants the bureaucrats in Brussels to have full control. How dare those ungrateful Poles refuse to follow the dictates of the European Politburo?
The EU has turned into a socialist superstate, unaccountable to its members, and authoritarian in its operations and policies.
There is a widening split between the populists of Central Europe and the dystopian elitists of the liberal West, pushing their globalist ideas on the unwilling.
It may not end well for the EU.
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached at LToddWood.com.