All Europeans are created equal. One of the fundamental principles of the EU is that citizens are all equal before the law. Yet the EU is not just a union of citizens, it is also a union of Member States. And some Member States are bigger (and richer) than others.
Countries such as Italy and Greece have long-argued that they’ve been treated badly by other EU Member States, who they feel have forced through painful austerity measures in the wake of the Eurozone crisis whilst simultaneously refusing to take their share of arrivals from the refugee and migrant crisis. On the other hand, countries such as Hungary and Poland argue they are being discriminated against by the EU because of their more conservative political inclinations, and because they are pushing back against the liberal worldview of Western European leaders.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from randomguy2017, who doesn’t believe that all EU countries are treated equally. He says he thinks EU elites “look down” on countries like Hungary and Poland. Is he right? Are some Member States more equal than others?
To get a response, we spoke to Ana Maria Gomes, a Portuguese social democratic MEP. What would she say?
I think it’s totally wrong to think that the EU looks down on Poland and Hungary when we are trying to defend principles which are universal values and democratic values. On the contrary, I would say that we look up to the people of Hungary and Poland when we indeed insist that these basic values, democratic values, need to be respected by authoritarian regimes, such as the one that the people of Hungary now have to endure under Viktor Orbán.
The only explanation why Viktor Orbán’s regime has not yet been sanctioned by the European Commission – and it should because of violations of EU law and basic principles of international law – is the fact that the EPP [Ed: European People’s Party, the centre-right grouping in the European Parliament] is covering up to protect one of theirs, from the family. I think it’s exactly because we want to uphold those values – also in Hungary and in Poland and elsewhere – that we need to set higher standards. So this is not about looking down, it is about looking up to the high values that the EU believes is the cornerstone of its approach.
For another perspective, we also spoke to Margot Parker, a British MEP with the eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP). Here’s what she had to say:
I think there is truth in that and I can understand it. I think it goes probably to the very heart of how the European Union functions. When I look at the people at the very top, I asked myself… who, and how, do we get the top people in these top jobs? And, I have to say, I have never seen any of the top jobs going to, for example, somebody from Hungary or someone from Poland.
We do have somebody at the moment [Ed: Donald Tusk, President of the European Council], but at the end of the day Mr Juncker was put in that position because Chancellor Merkel thought he was probably the right man as far as she was concerned for the job. But I would like to see greater democracy with the other countries within the European Union. So, I think he has a point.
Finally, we put randomguy2017’s comment to Pál Csáky, a Slovak centre-right MEP and member of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, as well as former Deputy Prime Minister for European affairs, human rights and minorities. What would he say?
Does the EU treat all its Member States equally? Or does Brussels look down on countries like Poland and Hungary? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!