I propose a new approach, a simple extension of an existing mechanism: the infringement action. The Commission could signal systematic complaints against a Member State by bundling a group of individual infringement actions together under the banner of Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) which guarantees:
the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity, and equality between women and men prevail.
A systematic infringement action would share with ordinary infringement actions specific complaints against the national law or consistent practices of a Member State for violating particular provisions of EU law.
Scheppele, Kim Lane. “What Can the European Commission Do When Member States Violate Basic Principles of the European Union? The Case for Systematic Infringement Actions.” European Commission, November 2013.
Kim Lane Scheppele is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and University Center for Human Values, as well as Director, Program in Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University.
The paper would seem to address a slew of issues sensitive now in central and eastern European states slipping along with resurgent medieval to Nazi-era nationalist movements. Certainly, returns to anti-Roma and anti-Semitic incitement would obviate the “rights of persons belonging to minorities.”
In the post-WWII generations, one would have hoped that so much bigotry, license, and hate had been consigned to historic memory and the coffin lid on that pounded sufficiently to keep it closed forever.
The realpolitik, as Hungary’s Jobbik might exemplify, would seem not quite so.
As the direct memory of such monsters fade with the dying of the “Greatest Generation”, it has been left to the children and grandchildren to detect the same poisonous blood in contemporary bodies politic and keep it from seeping back to the surface and — as it may do so, however slowly — drowning again another generation to come.
Scheppele’s proposal goes on to deal more directly with Hungary’s “democratic backsliding” toward fascism, as with this example:
The structural weakness of the individual infringement action was illustrated by the creative, bold, important, and successful case that the Commission brought with regard to the decapitation of the leadership of the judiciary that the Hungarian government accomplished through the sudden, forced early retirement of senior judges. By lowering the retirement age from 70 to 62 with immediate effect, the Hungarian government forced the departure of the most senior 10% of the judiciary, including fully one quarter of the Supreme Court justices and half of the appeals court presidents. The government then replaced these senior judges with judges of its own choosing, using a new legal procedure that put the choice of such judges into the hands of the president of a new political institution, the National Judicial Office, taking that power away from the judiciary itself. (pp.3-4).
Szaniszló’s harangue begins with a rehash of the Kennedy assassination, a topic he talked about earlier. Here the story serves as an introduction to the main theme. Kennedy was assassinated by “financial powers that conquered the United States.” According to Szaniszló, Kennedy was not the first victim of this financial power group because “there were earlier presidents, vice presidents, and secretaries” who were killed by these people. I myself couldn’t come up with any president whose assassination was in any way connected to the financial world. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by a Southerner; James Garfield’s assassin was mentally unbalanced; and William McKinley was killed by an anarchist. As for vice presidents, no vice president of the United States has ever been assassinated. And as for secretaries, there was an assassination attempt on the life of William H. Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state, at the same time as the president’s assassination, but he survived.
Soon enough Szaniszló moves to more dangerous grounds. With a quick turn we are at 9/11, which is according to him “the biggest lie of world history” because it was a “willful self-provocation, one of many.”
Ferenc Szaniszló hosts a twice-weekly news show in Hungary on “Echo TV”. Says Wikipedia (as viewed 12/2/2013) about him: “One of Echo TV’s better known broadcasters is Ferenc Szaniszló, known for his racist and anti-Semitic statements. In 2011, Hungary’s media regulator fined Echo 500,000 Forints after Szaniszló compared Roma people to “monkeys”.
Such as Szanisló may represent should have a country, preferably one where they may be left by themselves. Until that day, other more genuinely democratic and open societies may need in their region-wide transnational law some astute, defensive, and enforceable legal guidance and law.
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