The EU dangers falling “hostage” to authoritarian member states if it fails to agree a troublesome system to defend the rule of regulation inside its personal borders, Slovakia’s president has warned.
Zuzana Caputova urged nationwide governments to seize the “unique opportunity” supplied by a a lot argued-over plan to droop EU funds funds to nations that breach the bloc’s democratic requirements and elementary values.
Ms Caputova’s name in an interview with the Financial Times highlights fierce debate between member states and the European parliament over EU rule of regulation safeguard proposals drafted by Germany’s rotating presidency of the bloc. Her remarks additionally underscore the numerous opposition in some central and japanese European nations to the slide in direction of autocracy in states resembling Hungary and Poland. A former anti-corruption lawyer with no earlier political expertise, Ms Caputova’s election victory final 12 months was a uncommon shot within the arm for central continental liberal, pro-European forces.
“Of course we need a sort of enforcement mechanism for rule of law to be observed across the EU, so we don’t become hostage to those who don’t want to follow these rules,” mentioned Ms Caputova.
“This is also a unique opportunity to set the standards for the rule of law.”
Ms Caputova echoed calls by the European parliament and northern member states together with Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark for a troublesome rule of regulation safety mechanism, which is opposed by Hungary and Poland.
She mentioned that the bloc wanted to keep away from counting on unanimity — a reference to the EU’s so-called Article 7 rule of regulation disciplinary proceedings in opposition to Poland in 2017 and Hungary in 2018, which have been caught as a result of every nation has vowed to defend the opposite.
“We need to move from unanimity to qualified majority at the very minimum,” she mentioned.
Ms Caputova mentioned the EU pushback in opposition to authoritarian strikes additionally wanted to be extra well timed, on condition that the outcomes of infringement court docket circumstances introduced by the European Commission usually don’t arrive in time to cease the behaviour below scrutiny.
The European Court of Justice final week dominated in opposition to a 2017 Hungarian regulation that in impact compelled the Central European University, based by the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, out of Budapest — however the establishment has already relocated to Vienna.
“Justice delivered too late is no justice,” Ms Caputova mentioned. “That’s why this time factor is so critical — and that’s why this efficient [new] mechanism is so needed.”
Asked if leaders from the conservative European People’s Party grouping, together with Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, ought to have taken a firmer political stand in opposition to Hungary’s ruling Fidesz social gathering, which remains to be a member, Ms Caputova replied: “What I’m still surprised about quite often is relativism of values. So on the one hand you have values that are being declared, and on the other hand you have activities that do not reflect those values.”
“Every mechanism is dependent on people. I want to go back to this personal responsibility of leaders because if we are not consistent in our values and we are not following what we are saying, then no mechanism is going to change that,” she mentioned.
Ms Caputova has made justice and the rule of regulation one in all her primary priorities since sweeping to victory in Slovakia’s presidential election final 12 months, powered by a wave of common anger on the homicide of Jan Kuciak, a younger journalist who had been investigating corruption, and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova.
The killings despatched shockwaves via the central European nation, spurring requires reform of the nation’s judicial system, and finally triggering the resignation of the then prime minister Robert Fico.
However, Slovakia’s efforts to attract a line below the case suffered a blow final month when a high-profile businessman accused of ordering the killing was acquitted by a particular court docket. Prosecutors have appealed in opposition to the choice.
Ms Caputova, who initially expressed shock on the verdict, mentioned that there was no trigger to assume that the judicial course of had been “corrupted” and that the choice and reasoning of the Supreme Court, which can hear the attraction, could be “crucial”.
As effectively as talking out on the rule of regulation, Ms Caputova has been one of many few central European leaders ready to brazenly problem China, whose funding has been trumpeted by some capitals however remains to be dwarfed by European funding.
Last 12 months, she used a gathering with Beijing’s high diplomat to criticise China’s human rights report, and final week she refused to provide a speech on the high-profile annual safety convention in Bratislava run by the Globsec think-tank as a result of Huawei was a companion within the occasion.
She went forward with the speech after Globsec cancelled the partnership with Huawei.
Asked if she feared any penalties from her motion, she mentioned: “I’m a directly elected head of state of a sovereign country. I’m elected in a popular vote and I can freely choose what conferences I participate in or not.”