“The Brussels Diary With Yana Toom”: European Union, Hostages and Blackmail


I would like to give you some good news, but unfortunately there is none to give. Amidst the pandemic in the EU, a true thriller complete with blackmail and hostage-taking is unfolding. It’s not an exaggeration to say that 447 million people are being held hostage. All of them are citizens of the EU. For a change, the bad guys are not Islamic terrorists; in fact, they are people advocating Christian values: the governments of Hungary and Poland. Too bad they are behaving in an unchristian way.

Using words like ‘hostages’ and ‘blackmail’ is not an exaggeration. Hungary and Poland have blocked both the seven-year budget and the EU restoration fund. This means one trillion eight hundred billion euros that we are borrowing, in part to reboot the economy after the pandemic. The EU, like any other country, cannot live without a budget. The restoration fund is essential for Europeans. However, Hungary and Poland have dug in their heels.

Why? Because the European Parliament and the European Commission have agreed to monetarily punish (i.e., with euros) those countries that have breached the European principles. This is not even about human rights but rather the rule of law principle. All of this is taking place in a situation in which the financial interests of the EU are on the line. Poland with Hungary have declared throughout the process that they are not breaching anything, and that they have nothing to fear. However, in creating a mechanism of punishment, Brussels has turned to blackmail: so, if you do not change your tune, there will be no European budget. Understood?

This would all be funny if it was not so sad. Poland is against European money – this is like bees being against honey, as the Poles are given more than others. However, the Polish people is one thing – the other is the government which for the past five years has been trying to deprive the Polish courts of their independence, put them entirely under the power of the government and turn them into an instrument of getting even with those who are deemed disagreeable. Victor Orbán has also established draconian rules in Hungary: if you do not bow before him, you can forget about access to EU funds and no decision from any European court can help you.

Budapest and Warsaw are like people who want to be members of a gentlemen’s club but are behaving inappropriately, such as dancing on the tables and blowing their noses into the tablecloth. Anyway, they are doing this so that no-one can expel them from the club.

At the same time, these ‘gentlemen’ are assuring their voters that the awful EU wants to unleash hordes of migrants on them and impose same sex marriages. This is a lie. In fact, the discussion is on far more mundane issues such as the independence of the court system. But of course there needs to be an element of dramatic effect. The prime minister of Poland has already accused ‘the European oligarchs’ of everything under the sun and compared them to Polish communists.

There is no legal way to avoid Poland and Hungary. We are all being held hostage. If a solution is not found, Estonia will not receive one and a half billion euros from the restoration fund. We will not be able to invest money into the construction of hospitals, retraining of workers and in providing aid to small and medium-sized companies that are the first to falter in a pandemic such as this, not to mind funding for ecology and the digital economy. Moreover, we will not receive three hundred and forty million euros from the fund for the equitable transition of the long-suffering Ida-Viru County.

Anyway, the EU has reached a point where it is impossible to keep to the same course. We will see now begin to see how Germany, France and others cope with this situation. I think that the changes will be big and sudden.