‘End of EU as we know it’ EU vice-chief scolds Von der Leyen in damning warning for bloc

Von der Leyen says world is 'full of contradictions and conflict'

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Katarina Barley lashed out against Ursula von der Leyen’s administration, warning they faced the end of the EU “as we know it” unless the Commission gets its act together against rebel states like Hungary and Poland. The Parliament official told German website Merkur.de officials in the EU “no longer trust” the Commission can keep its promises when it comes to punish member states ignoring the rule of law.

Hitting out at Ms von der Leyen’s reluctance to act firmly against the deteriorating state of Poland and Hungary’s judicial systems, Ms Barley said time was pressing to save the EU.

She warned: “We observe that, in general, the Commission does not act quickly enough and not consistently enough when it comes to violations of the rule of law.

“The most obvious example: the actions of the so-called disciplinary chambers in Poland.

“They can punish judges and public prosecutors or even dismiss them. The European Court of Justice already ruled in April 2019 that these chambers are not allowed to ‘discipline’. But despite strong pressure from Parliament, the Commission initially did nothing for a long time.

“And when they did react recently, it consisted of a new letter to the Polish government requesting a statement.

“There was not even a threat of financial sanctions, which would have been possible without further ado.”

She continued: “In other words, we cannot trust that the Commission will act and care when it says it will.

“We now want to prevent that it will take forever before something will happen again. The Commission says that ‘no case is lost’.

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“But if we look again at the example of Poland: judges and public prosecutors are harassed – some of them are transferred to the other end of the country or parts of their salaries are cut; they will be taken to court.

“This is happening now. And that cannot be healed afterwards.”

The Commission was threatened early this week with legal action by MEPs as Ms von der Leyen failed to act against the two countries by June 1, a deadline imposed on her by Parliament.

MEPs are now asking Parliament President David Sassoli to trigger Article 265 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

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The protocol would see the Commission taken to court for failing to take action against “the growing risk of misusing the Union’s budget as means to deteriorate the Rule of Law in some Member States.”

In a note to President Sassoli, they said they “regret” the Commission not taking action “in the most obvious cases of the breaches of the Rule of Law in the EU”.

They added: “To be prepared, the EP shall in the meantime immediately start the necessary preparations for potential court proceedings under Article 265 of TFEU against the Commission.”

In a stern warning, she said the EU could soon collapse by the hands of von der Leyen’s failing tactics against authoritarian governments in the bloc.

Ms Barley added: “It cannot become much clearer that the basis of the European Union is eroding.

“It is being hollowed out from within. From the outside, enough people are pulling at the EU anyway.

“But if we allow the foundations to be hollowed out from within, then this European Union as we know it will not last much longer.”

Brussels has been locked in an ongoing dispute with Poland and Hungary over controversial legal reforms, which the EU claims endanger judicial independence.

The bloc has consequently launched proceedings in accordance with Article 7 of the EU’s constitution, which could theoretically see both sides lose their European Council voting rights unless they back down.

Both Poland, led by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, of the Law and Justice Party, and Hungary, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, of Fidesz, have long argued Brussels is attempting to punish both nations for having elected right-of-centre governments.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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