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!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – Saharrr; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Ana Gomes CC – Own Work, (c) Margot Parker – EFDD


106 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Tim

    Some are certainly more equal than others. Funny, the newer entries are getting wealthier fast, and they won’t easily forget

  2. Stefano

    Dall ‘Europa, il problema sono gli
    Stati membri :-
    se tutti gli Stati si ostinano a scaricare il problema migranti sull ‘Italia; non potremmo che aspettarci un rinvio di quel cambiamento simmetrico che già
    già gli Stati del Nord avevano rigettato sulla Costituzione Europea.
    Pensai anche (< forse ci dovremmo aspettare un Eurasia contro un Estasia? >) – “al post l ‘ardua sentenza!.
    Ma finché gli Stati non incominceranno a condividere i rischi per risolverli; i passi di una futura USE non potranno far altro che rallentare.
    Tutti devono pensare alle distanze dalle quali l ‘Italia s ‘è allontanata e, continua ad allontanarsi nell ‘indifferenza dell ‘Europa.
    #migranti

  3. Paul

    Of course it doesnt…where were the reprimand or punishment for germany by breaking the rule on trade surplus.. where was it for france when breaking it for budget deficit……its a franco/german rule book applicable only to others.

    • Jorge

      It’s not completely true. France was overviewed by the EC because its excessive deficit. So, although the affected country was France, France was overviewed by the EU.

    • Paul

      Jorge….France was given 8 years to correct !…….in fact, didn’t achieve that….only just now it’s budget forecast

    • Paul

      COnt….forecast is due to come in under 3%……on the other hand Germany trade surplus is sucking the life out of EUROZONE and totally contravenes intention in macroeconomic policy…..but no action taken….no wonder Trump tweets !

    • Davide

      Paul great words!!!

  4. Michael

    Money talks. In the EU power is a function of wealth. That’s all there is to it.

  5. Mark

    Have you seen who gets the majority of development funding?

    • Ivan

      Have you seen who pays for it ?

  6. Mark

    It’s certainly true that the wealthier states pay in more than they get back. But you’ve got to separate the EU from the eurozone which is/should be stricter

  7. Lawrence

    The EU should have kicked out the governments of Poland and Hungary a long time ago. Keep the people kick the governments out….

    • DonBydzio

      Lawrence chętnie opuścimy EU które w obecnym stanie przypomina szambo
      Lawrence , we would like to leave the EU, which in its current state resembles

    • Lawrence

      No I mean restrict the movement of government and civil servants in the rest of the EU…. although sometimes someone from Brussels suggests that mabe both countries should be expelled….

    • Lawrence

      DonBuydzio … it.s very difficult to run a fascist government within the EU… maybe old habits die hard for some polish people….

    • Marin

      Are you really so ignorant? The Polish fought more against fascism than what France could ever accomplish! It’s foolish enough that you literally say that democratic governments should be overthrown, because they don’t accept cultural genocide, you even want to claim that Hungary and Poland are the fascist ones?

      The funniest thing is, I also agree that Poland and Hungary should leave, and form their own union, and alliance, because the European Union is a digged grave at this point, with all it’s members entering that grave.

    • Lawrence

      Marin ….before to start trolling read my comment first…..

    • Ivan

      Lawrence If your pointless EU restricts the movement of democratically elected governments because they obey the wishes of their people then you have proven the EU is the fascist dictatorship, not the member States trapped in it.

  8. Robin

    Poland, Hungary, Romania and Turkey are looking down on EU, and not the other way around.

    Maybe itț’s time the EU did something to our sh*tty governements.

    • Jesús

      Turkey is not part of the EU.

    • Robin

      Jesús no, but has a privileged status in relation to EU.

    • Marin

      The EU is destroying every country it controls, while Hungary and Poland are generally expanding, and growing both in economy, and importance. In the long run, twenty years from now, the EU countries will be loosing their sovereignty to Islamist uprisings, while Hungary and Poland will be flourishing.

    • Robin

      Marin No, it’s not. And no, Hungary is not expanding economically. The whole world is, Hungary just keeps the pace.

      Also, more and more Hungary becomes worse for its people.

      There are no Islamic uprisings, there is no god, religion is irrelevant.

    • Ivan

      Robin Why do you pro EU fanatics hate democracy so much ?

    • Erik

      Ivan
      “Its the economy, stupit” 😉

    • Erik

      Nothing personal guys, its just a quote 😊

  9. Jerzy

    Poland is a very peaceful country, while Western Europe has serious problems with Muslims. Paradoxically, Brussels deals with Poland instead of solving its own problems..

  10. Jerzy

    More and more Poles believe that Poland should leave the EU, but not because of its members, but because of its politicians, such as Timmermans and Guy.

    • Charlie

      Although more when polled Poland had the highest percentage of people who want to remain in the EU. My experience of living in Poland has been peaceful but so too was my 23 years in the UK. (To respond to your other point). While attacks in the west have been tragic they are not the biggest challenge Europe has, just makes entertaining/ horrific news. Having lived in both Poland’s fire and road safety strikes me as a bigger conern. If not the dismantling of the judiciary 😕 We have our problems in the west too but trust me the biggest is not the presence of brown people!

    • Artis

      Charlie who is saying the attacks in western EU are not gonna increase?

    • Agnieszka

      Wrong … Majority of Poles wishes to remain in EU.

    • Marin

      Poland, Hungary, and all other sane countries should leave the manipulative EU that is destroying itself, and form a new union based on European values.

    • Jason

      Charlie Trotter Who mentioned ‘brown people’? …he said ‘muslims’ …so basically you’ve just called all ‘brown people’ muslims….I’m sure Italians, Spaniards, Maltese etc will find this very insulting as they’re predominantly Catholic….he said the problem is with ‘muslims’ obviously referring to Islamic terrorism and you call all ‘brown people’ muslims….when virtue signalling and flying the flag for Islamic terrorism please don’t include all ‘brown people’ so you don’t come across as an uneducated tit….signed a ‘brown person’

    • randomguy2018

      Jerzy is actually right. Younger generations are more increasingly skeptical of EU.
      While most Poles still support EU around 70-75 percent., if they keep pushing Liberal or immigration
      Its almost certain support for EU would drop to below 50 percent.
      The EUSSR politburo should be ashamed of how they have been aggressive toward Christianity, traditional values, and other such things. Look at what happened to Western Europe over a few decade.
      Hopefully right wing and populism keep increasing.

  11. Ivan

    Strange question, it implies the EU is something other than & something above the member States, proving it really is nothing more than a occupation force of those Nation States & a dictatorship.

    • Erik

      All EU members choose for membership instead of the UK which is a occupation of different nations.

    • Erik

      Ivan
      EEC doesn’t exist anymore. Its called the EU quite some time 😊

    • Erik

      Ivan
      Old news my friend. And btw its a non binding referendum.

    • Ivan

      Erik You use that as a justification to ignore a result you do not like ? Yours are the words of a fascist dictatorship comrade.

      But thank you for proving that you can have democracy or you can have the EU but you can’t have both.

    • Erik

      Ivan
      Oh pls, here we go again haha. So, tell me, whats the difference between the UK and EU?

    • Mitsos

      I’d love to hear the difference between the two as well

    • Ivan

      Erik Sure thing comrade.

      UK = 800 Years of history of spreading trade, education, democracy, peace & freedom around the world.

      EU = 25 Years of dictatorship (Soon to come to an end)

      Next stupid question please ? 8|

  12. Zbigniew

    Poland and It’s government is treated adequately. However, the support for the people is not sufficient and the problem to be solved has nothing to do with equality.

  13. Artur

    Portugal does not respect deadlines of directives implementation . Something happens ? I don’t think so. You can see it today at..http://www.dre.pt

  14. Cristiana Mihaela Puiu

    El siglo XXI, en mi opinión y con todo el respeto, tiene una EU demasiado obsoleta, me refiero a los representantes de cada país europeo, que tenéis mi edad y a vosotros nadie os rechaza en el trabajo por ser viejos como yo, 59 años y todavía tengo de verdad ganas de aportar valor a la sociedad!!

  15. Cèlia

    I don’t think so, in my opinion the th EU is extremely biased in base of the richness of each country

  16. Peter

    Er, yes ? And Westerners who have no idea about the culture, politics and history of Poland and think the Guardian will tell them all should STFU, ’cause they don’t have a clue about my country. You can only know what’s going on in Poland if you speak Polish and read Polish press, because the English language press only presents one side of the argument, and it’s definitely not the one supported by the majority of Polish voters.

    • José

      The majority of Polish voters would not vote staying in the EU if that implies obeying the rules.

    • Anonymous

      The rules ? The EU frequently breaks the rules in Germany’s favour whilst strictly applying them to Slavonic states, giving Germany an advantage over us.
      State aid to airlines – with Lufthansa it was fine, but with Polish rail – no, no, no you eastern dumbasses.
      Obey rules of EU solidarity and don’t jeopardize security of eastern states ? Nah, let’s make a cool deal with Gazprom called Nord Stream II, whilst accusing eastern states of “putinisation”.
      The rules are designed to be ignored or applied in the favour of some and to the disadvantage of others.
      Western countries, Germany in particular never stopped being Nazi imperialists and still get a hardon oppressing Slavs but don’t bother about obeying the rules.

    • Joseph

      The Poles could leave the EU- but as major beneficiaries of EU funds they would have a pretty big hole in their budget. Despite the fact their national insurance (ZUS) is cripplingly high for self-employed people. Where does the money go? On luxury cars for Rydzyk?

    • Peter

      If one hast no argument, one mentions Rydzyk and pretends to have the moral high ground. Wtf does Rydzyk have to with ZUS ?

  17. Manuel

    Ever heard about Greece? I did, especially when my bank account was shut down thank to the EU trying to manipulate a referendum. So, what’s the question again?

    • David

      Uhm… No. That’s not how any of this works. ^^

  18. Marco

    In a couple of year EU will not exist anymore. Hopefully.

    • David

      Many Northerners think it’s the other way around. ^^

    • Carmelita

      David well that takes some doing, some serious mental gymnastics!!

  19. Bódis

    …and Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Czechia, Greece.
    Yes, indeed.

  20. Franz M

    Nobody is looking down on anybody. There are rules which need to be obliged.
    Especially were democracy, legal systemes, free media and human rights are concerned.

  21. Franz M

    Nobody is looking down on anybody. There are rules which need to be obliged.
    Especially were democracy, legal systemes, free media and human rights are concerned.
    It’s more that governments that are rightfully under attack tend to blaim an outside “force”

  22. randomguy2018

    In addition, I should point out that Italy is looked down on now,
    because the elites see “populists” as enemies. Italy is trying to secure borders.
    Well they are now “evil racists”. Yes when you have a pay check from Soros
    everything is racist. They are skeptical of Euro. Well they are rebels to the system. Hopefully the M5S and right coalition can resist the regime of EU.

    On the Bilderberg meeting one of the discussions is the rise of populism for a reason. The big dollar/euro/etc people do not represent the people. They represent banks, corporations, self interest.

    • Aguysomewhere

      Italy is doing exactly what all of Europe should be doing, enforcing the borders to prevent illegal migration. Our wealth does not exist in a vacuum. Anybody that comes here legally can share in the wealth but illegals should not be able to benefit from breaking the rules of entry.

      If no country will take the boats and the boats have to start going back to africa then this practice will end, now Spain got weak and took in these people. European’s don’t have the stomach to get the job done and the third world people recognize this and act accordingly. Their African countries would never tolerate millions of illegals, they would incarcerate and deport illegals, we on the other hand rescue them, bring them to Europe and then let them walk free to disappear.

  23. Bódis

    Just consider the application of such basic rules as the Maastricht-criterion for budget deficit: maximum 3% and no more, or else infringement procedures and fiscal babysitting are the consequence.
    Some Westen European countries were not punished for excessive budget deficit. Hungary *was* once punished because the Brusselites *thought* that the budget deficit *will* exceed the limit. Well, it didn’t. But Hungary was punished for something that didn’t even happen..

    A very democratic EU governed by the rule of law, is it?

    The attitude is fundamentally influenced by factors like having a left- or right-wing government. A left-wing government gets away with excessive police violence against political demonstrators (bloody beaten people, eyes shot out with rubber bullets) and gets away with putting many dozens of demonstrators and people captured in pubs into *jail*, all based on fake police testimonials. And there’s no question about the independence of the judiciary!

    A right-wing government tries to apply the general retirement age to judges too, and gets assulted by the EU for tyranny.

    How is that for democratic values at the EU?

  24. Denis

    It’s countries like Hungary that spits on the plate of the other European countries. Out Hungary from the EU, with their criminal government.

    • Denis

      I can say the same of you? Nice arguments 😂

  25. Philip

    No as some are more equal than others. I lost all faith in this organisation despite having voted to join. This is not the EU I expected,

  26. Joseph

    Poland receives a lot of money from the EU and you can clearly see the benefits of it. However there are arguments that the money has improved standards in cities while having little effect in rural areas. Historically too the Poles have a (justified) distrust of the Germans. However I think that complaining that the EU treats Poland badly after repeatedly attacking the EU and painting them as the enemy (check out stuff like Do Rzeczy & Gazeta Polska) is similar, and similarly hypocritical, to the Brexit supporters actions in the UK

    • Ivan

      Don’t worry, the money every country gets is going to be reduced massively when the British tax payer stops wasting our money on the pointless EU so expect Euroscepticism to rise across the EU. Really looking forward to the MEP election next year, a lot of pro EU fanatical MEP’s are going to be out of a job 8|

    • Joseph

      What is the point if being an anti-EU MEP? That’s like going to work just to mess up the working of the business. I will be interested to see if the savings from leaving the EU come anywhere near compensating for the costs.

    • Ivan

      Joseph

      Pro EU MEP’s are just there to rubber stamp the unelected European Politburo dictates so the anti EU MEP’s are the true democrats who represent the people.The only way to destroy the pointless EU is from within …… & it works :)

    • Joseph

      I think we will just have to agree to disagree. There’s no point starting an argument here.

    • Joseph

      I understand that Euroscepticism is on the rise and may well lead to the collapse of the EU but personally I think that it is a very bad move to return to infighting in Europe- Far Right nationalists are the true enemies of freedom and democracy. This time has a distinctly 1930s feel :-(

    • Ivan

      Joseph

      You mean infighting as in happening within the EU now ?

      You can have democracy or you can have the EU, you can’t have both.

      Fascism, Communism and now Europeanism, different flags but the same deranged lust to rule all Europe. The world has moved on but the EU is stuck in the early 20th Century & serves no purpose in the 21st.

    • Joseph

      Unfortunately you may be right that cooperation and collaboration are no longer considered necessary, people have become too selfish to work together and share. The collapse of the EU will lead to nothing positive. But I know that there is little point arguing, like a religion there is no way to shift opinions.

    • Mick

      Ivan you deluded twat. Open a history book. And take of the tinfoil hat.

    • Joseph

      The League of Nations was a similar organisation and its collapse led quickly to WW2. The EU has promoted collaboration, cooperation and peace between European nations. This has been one of the longest periods of peace in Europe’s history. Divided all the old grievances and border disputes come out and then countries start fighting.

  27. Csaba

    German economy is suffocating the east. While they are protesting for 28 hour work weeks at home, abroad their companies pay 500 euros a month in the east to their workers. EU funds were used to make nice parks and also highways for the trucks that export the products made by cheap labor like engines for Audis. While we get the lower quality garbage they can’t sell in the West. Barely any money went to create new jobs that could compete with the west and a lot more workplaces were bought up and closed to create market for their products.

  28. Cai Arcos Botias.

    In my opinion, this question should be divided into two different aspects: the first one is the economical one and the other the cultural one. I will proceed to discuss both of them individually:

    1.- In the economical side, it is true that different countries are treated differently according to various aspects. However, the ultimate goal of the EU is to build a democratic and meritocratic society, and because of this it is obvious that rather than treating everybody equally the objetive would be to exalt the different benefits each member has. While Germany should have (and has) more importance in decisions concerning Industry (because it is their expertise), Spain also should have the ability to make their decisions about agriculture more relevant that others. Should we praise the differents aspects and take profit of the different historical expertises each country has, efficiency and happiness would rise.

    2.- We then have the more conflictive area: the cultural one. This one is a lot more objetive, but I will do my best to remain objective. The so called “discrimination” we are seeing here comes from very different political points of view, rather than because of the different countries. This comes from the dominant liberal view than permeates all european institutions. We should strive to meet half-way, without directly assuming that neither progressism or conservadurism is the definitive answer to the question of Europe. However, this meeting should happen bilaterally, not only from the EU but also from the other countries. We tend to forget that this stereotypes are not only created by Brussels but also reinforced by those anti europeans politics who are benefited from them

  29. Amarillis

    Why should they when Hungary is happily taking their money but disagreeing with all their values

  30. Gabriella

    In my opition there’s a lack of balance in the way in which Eu treats its members. As concers migrats I can’t understand such a “tolance” or lack of reaction towards certain East Countries’ arbitriary decisions to close fronteers. If we really want to join this great project called “Europa”, well, it’s time for everybody to take its own responsabilities. I am still faithful to Europe and I don’t really want it to be so devided inside

  31. Bert van Santen

    No, Hungary is punsihed for the wall, and the EU pays money for the wall in Turkey

  32. George

    Is this a rhetorical question or what? What kind of answers do you expect below?

  33. Keith

    Germany is absolutely making a fortune whist other states die financially. The French Euro idea is a disaster

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