France’s centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron said he would push for European Union sanctions against Poland and any other states accused of violating EU principles if he wins France’s presidency.
“In the next three months after I am elected, there will be a decision on Poland,” Macron told reporters of several regional French newspapers including Ouest-France. “You cannot have a European Union which argues over every single decimal place on the issue of budgets with each country, and which, when you have an EU member which acts like Poland or Hungary on issues linked to universities and learning, or refugees, or fundamental values, decides to do nothing.”
Macron’s comment indicates the staunchly pro-EU candidate, who promises to reassert France’s leading position within the bloc and play an integral role in shaping its future, will actively enforce the bloc’s democratic liberal values at a time when EU leaders are faced with reshaping and shoring up solidarity within the union pre-Brexit.
EU leaders have tangled with Poland and Hungary in recent months over the issue of refugee quotas and Brussels has expressed its concerns over what it perceives as rising authoritarianism in both countries.
Both Poland and Hungary have blocked European Commission plans to resettle refugee and migrant arrivals throughout the bloc and on Friday, Hungary announced it had completed a second three-metre high fence along its border with Serbia.
In January Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party tightened its control on Polish media organisations which prompted demonstrations in Warsaw and condemnations by press freedom groups. The country is also working on regulations which would allow Warsaw to detain asylum seekers in border camps – a policy already in place in Hungary.
And this week, Brussels’ war of words with Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban escalated as it launched official infringement proceedings against Budapest over a controversial law governing universities that EU Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt called “paranoid”.
The EU Commission has stopped short of imposing sanctions on its own members for non-compliance. It’s a decision Macron said he is against.
“When the rights and values of the European Union are not respected, I want sanctions to be taken,” Macron said.
Macron’s message echoes that made by the European Commission earlier this month; it is considering fining member states for failing to reach their migrant quotas.
In a statement released earlier this month, the Commission said if member states “do not increase their relocations soon, the Commission will not hesitate to make use of its powers for those which have not complied”.
Hungary is challenging the Commission’s forced relocation plan in the European Court of Justice. A decision is due on May 10.
More than one million people have come to Europe, mostly via Greece and Italy. The two countries have called for – and applied pressure on Brussels to guarantee – increased cooperation among EU states to shoulder the burden of the migrant crisis affecting Europe since 2015.
As many as 14,000 people currently in Greece are eligible for relocation throughout the bloc.
But countries along migrants’ land-route to western Europe including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania oppose the scheme.
With nine days to go before the French runoff election, recent polls suggest Macron’s lead over far-right challenger Marine Le Pen has narrowed after France’s first round vote.
Macron is still projected to win the May 7 vote with an estimated 60 percent of votes.