The problem is the same on these three fronts. Facing Turkey, Great Britain and the Polish-Hungarian tandem in the most burning problems it has to solve at the moment, the European Union must arbitrate between the short and the long term.
In the short term, the Union should not allow the British to continue to have access to the single market without complying with its common rules. Allowing it would be encouraging a “free for all” situation. The 27 cannot continue accession negotiations with Turkey either, as Mr Erdoğan has filled his jails with political prisoners, is turning his back on a reunified Cyprus and is behaving as if he were at home in the territorial waters of two of the Union’s states.
Failing to make a clear statement that Turkey no longer has any ground to join the EU would be a mockery of the European Union’s dignity, its values and the solidarity between the countries that it make it up. On this front, too, everything demands that the EU show an absolute firmness and it cannot give in to blackmail from Poland and Hungary, either, not even a little. There is only one response to give to this tandem which is holding the next common budget and the 750-billion-worth recovery plan hostage in an attempt to break the link between financial solidarity and respect for the rule of law.
They must be told: you either accept as inseparable the values and benefits of the Union, or we will do without you by relaunching our 25 economies within the framework of an enhanced cooperation or of an agreement between our States.
It would not be simple, everybody knows that.
It would be complicated to implement, but however big the difficulty, we would have to tackle it without hesitation if Mr. Orbán and Mr. Kaczyński forced us to do so, because there would be no reason not to uphold the Union’s political values just because these two men would like to do disregard them after having accepted them by joining the Union.
And let’s say it, even beyond the principles, there are only advantages to a firm stance.
After having experienced its isolation and having seen the Union affirm itself as a political actor on the international scene, Great Britain will come knocking at its door again because, from the outside, it will not have been able to prevent the birth of this new power. Mr. Erdoğan, for his part, will have a hard time convincing his compatriots that he was right to quarrel with the Union and the whole NATO, while the Turkish economy is going down the drain. As for the Polish and Hungarian leaders, well, let them put themselves on the sideline of the Union although they badly need its budgets and their public opinions are massively pro-European.
In the short term, everything pleads for intransigence but, in the long term, neither democracy nor the European Union would have an interest in allowing Great Britain – one of the only two European military powers along with France – to weaken and perhaps even disunite. In the long term, neither democracy nor the Union would have anything to gain either by bringing Turkey even closer to Russia and rooting it in Islamism by marginalizing its democrats, who would no longer be able to plead for European anchoring. As for Hungary and Poland, it would be absurd to acknowledge their isolation while their current leaders are running out of steam and political changes are beginning in these two countries.
With the short and long terms, we have to reconcile the irreconcilable, but is it so impossible? Can we not imagine that, being totally firm in its positions, the Union addresses the peoples of these four countries directly to tell them that beyond the momentary tensions it wishes to confirm and develop with them the closest and most cordial ties possible and that it stands ready to do so as soon as this becomes imaginable again?
Nothing makes this impossible. It would only require the 27 to learn quickly, much more quickly than at present, to speak with one voice, as one power sharing the same vision and objectives. It would really be enough to want to do so, because we have the same interests and ambitions towards Great Britain and Poland, Hungary and Turkey – and by the way, towards Russia, China and the United States as well – interests and ambitions which are difficult, but necessary.