Europe puts its money where its values are

A proposal to cut aid to European Union members that violate democratic norms, such as Poland and Hungary, could help ensure Europe remains a safe home for liberty.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presentS the final proposal for the bloc's next long-term budget, in Brussels, Belgium, May 2,

One of the world’s greatest acts of charity has been the aid given to the newer members and poorer nations of the European Union by wealthier states, especially since the admission of many former Soviet-bloc countries in 2004. This “cohesion” money is largely spent on reducing inequities in trade, transport, and communications across the Continent.

Yet soon those funds may also be used to ensure the EU has no inequities in democratic standards, such as freedom of the press and independence of judges, that lie at the core of Europe’s civilizational identity.

On May 2, the European Commission, which is the bloc’s bureaucratic body, proposed that the handouts be curtailed to any member state that has “deficiencies in the rule of law,” as EC President Jean-Claude Juncker put it. The move, which does not require the unanimous approval of the EU, is aimed particularly at Poland and Hungary. Right-wing nationalist governments there have violated norms that protect the liberty of individuals, media, and businesses from arbitrary rule.

For years, the EU has sought ways to punish Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party for its assaults on the independence of the judiciary. And as Hungary has curbed press freedom and taken other authoritarian steps, it, too, faces challenges from EU institutions. Under the bloc’s rules, however, it is difficult to discipline a country once it is a member.

The Commission’s threat to cut aid is a clever way to force Warsaw and Budapest to think twice. And it’s not merely a message about values. Rather the proposal is framed as a practical concern about aid being stolen or the possibility of a legal dispute not being handled fairly in a country’s court system. In other words, member states would be held to account for “sound financial management” of EU largess.

For Poland and Hungary, ending aid from the EU would have significant consequences. Most of their infrastructure spending has come from the EU. And in 2016, the subsidy amounted to 2.6 percent of Poland’s gross national income and 4.2 percent of Hungary’s.

Holding the line against dictatorial tendencies is key not only for the current EU but also for its expansion plans. Seven countries on the edges of Europe are candidates to join. This club of democracies has been critical in preventing war. It is also a model in showing rule of law can ensure prosperity and freedom.

The EU charity has built a safe home for Europe. Keeping it safe may require not contributing to countries that stand outside its democratic norms.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Europe puts its money where its values are
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today