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The Costs of Merkel’s Surrender to Hungarian and Polish Extortion

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been laboring under enormous pressure to prevent a veto of the European Union's 2021-27 budget and COVID-19 recovery fund. But the compromise she reached with Hungary and Poland is the worst of all possible worlds.

NEW YORK – The European Union is facing an existential threat, and yet the EU’s leadership is responding with a compromise that appears to reflect a belief that the threat can simply be wished away. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s kleptocratic regime in Hungary and, to a lesser extent, the illiberal Law and Justice (PiS) government in Poland, are brazenly challenging the values on which the European Union has been built. Treating their challenge as a legitimate political stance deserving of recognition and a compromise solution will only add – massively – to the risks that the EU now faces.

I recognize and understand the enormous pressure under which German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been laboring. She has been Germany’s chancellor for 15 years and is now approaching retirement, in September 2021. With French President Emmanuel Macron temporarily distracted by the laïcité issue and other serious security concerns within France, Merkel has become something of the sole main decision-maker for the EU.

I also understand why the German chancellor does not want another country, Hungary, to announce its intention to leave the EU on her watch. That is reportedly what Orbán was preparing to do in recent days, because he cannot afford to have the sheer scale of his regime’s corruption exposed, which the EU’s “rule of law” conditionality for the disbursement of Union funds would invariably have done.

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