“EU powerless against authoritarianism”

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The European Union is powerless to act against the slide towards authoritarianism being seen in Poland and Hungary, the head of the bloc’s executive, the European Commission, admitted in a Saturday interview.

Right-wing governments in Poland and Hungary have attracted international criticism for tightening their grip on the media and the judiciary. The EU even started legal proceedings against Warsaw, a major step that could ultimately lead to sanctions.

But EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Belgian newspaper Le Soir that the so-called Article 7 procedure will lead to nothing “because some [EU] member states are already saying they will refuse to invoke it.”

“This a priori refusal de facto invalidates Article 7. I note this with sadness and disappointment, hoping that the people will not give free rein to those who will end up harming [their interests,]” Juncker said.

Asked directly whether the EU could not stop worrying trends in Poland and Hungary, the former Luxembourg premier said: “Yes, and I say with concern. There are deviations [from EU democratic standards] in some countries, and we do not know where they will lead us.”

In his interview, Juncker also said negotiations with Turkey on limiting migrants flows to Europe are unavoidable, even if that country, where nine Kurdish opposition politicians were arrested Saturday, is an unpalatable partner.

“I know. But what other option is there?” the EU commission chief said.