Europe Can Have Stimulus or Rule of Law, Not Both

This trap was laid in July. Under the moderation of Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, the 27 national leaders tentatively agreed to a groundbreaking budget-plus-stimulus deal to address the pandemic. Worth 1.8 trillion euros ($2.1 trillion) in total, the package includes 750 billion euros to be financed by the first “European” bonds ever issued, which is why it’s considered the germ of a future fiscal union. But it still has to be accepted by the European Parliament and ratified by all member states.

To get that initial agreement, its drafters added some vague wording about conditionality. The aim was to link any receipts of EU money to upholding the rule of law. Broadly defined, this term includes everything from an independent judiciary and a free press to other basics of liberal democracy, as enshrined in the EU’s treaties. Uncontroversial, you might think.

Those phrases entered the text to

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