R. Daniel Kelemen

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The European Union has long been criticized as ineffective on foreign policy. But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has created a crisis of epic proportions. Will it prompt the E.U. to finally come together as a real geopolitical power?

While it is still early, the E.U. is showing signs of new political resolve and unity in response to Putin’s aggression. The organization is implementing hard-hitting sanctions and offering military assistance to Ukraine, surprising those who have dismissed it as an irredeemable geopolitical weakling.

Our own research on political development suggests this moment has the potential to create a turning point in the E.U.’s…  Seguir leyendo »

Angela Merkel and Viktor Orban at the Chancellery in Berlin last year. (Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg News)

Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party rules Hungary, and it has long been a member of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) at the European Union level. Now, Orban’s far-right party is leaving the EPP’s grouping in the European Parliament, ahead of a vote that would probably have expelled it. This is a big development, which suggests that the European Union won’t be as comfortable a home for budding autocrats as it has been in recent years.

Orban has effectively turned Hungary into an autocracy

Over the past decade, Orban has dismantled his country’s democracy and replaced it with what ratings bodies label a hybrid electoral-authoritarian regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has been barking at the European Union’s high court — the European Court of Justice — for years. This week, it finally bit.

On May 5, the German court issued a ruling on the legality of the European Central Bank’s bond buying program — and this ruling endangers a pillar of the ECB’s response to the euro-zone crisis. That’s actually the less important consequence of the ruling. The court’s decision may undermine the very foundations of the E.U. legal order.

The German court invalidated an earlier ECJ ruling upholding the ECB’s action, saying that it does not have effects in Germany.…  Seguir leyendo »

A pedestrian takes in the view from the stairs of the deserted Citadel at night in Budapest on March 31. Hungary's parliament handed Prime Minister Viktor Orban the right to rule by decree indefinitely, effectively putting the country under his sole command. (Akos Stiller/Bloomberg)

On Monday, Hungary’s Parliament granted Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the sweeping emergency powers he had asked for. Under the justification of the coronavirus epidemic, Orbán can suspend existing laws and rule by decree for an indefinite period.

No by-elections can be held while the emergency powers remain in place. Anyone the government views as spreading “falsehoods” or “distorted truths” that obstruct efforts to protect the public from the pandemic can be jailed for up to five years. In theory, Parliament could overturn the law with a two-thirds vote. In practice, Orbán’s Fidesz party dominates the body, and will probably allow Orbán to rule by fiat as long as he wants to.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why does a political union that professes a deep commitment to democracy allow some member governments to backslide toward authoritarianism? The European Union claims it has a deep commitment to democracy. It requires applicant states to be democratic and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, in part because of how it had helped advance democracy in Europe. However, in recent years, the E.U. has allowed some member governments to backslide toward authoritarianism. In 2019, one member state, Hungary, became the only E.U. member state ever to be downgraded by Freedom House, an organization that measures democracy, to the status of only a “partly free” country.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week, incoming president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, unveiled her proposed team of commissioners and the jobs she has assigned them. Von der Leyden and the 26 commissioners (one nominated by each E.U. member, other than the United Kingdom) will lead the E.U.’s executive.

The new commission will take office Nov. 1, just a day after the anticipated Brexit date, but the team must first win approval from the European Parliament where a final vote is planned for the week of Oct. 23. Although the Parliament can only vote to approve or reject the commission as a whole, it has leveraged this power in the past to demand the replacement of individual nominees.…  Seguir leyendo »

The European Parliament on Tuesday voted to confirm Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s defense minister and a longtime ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as the next president of the European Commission. Her victory was both historic and controversial. It was historic above all because she will become the first female president of the European Union’s executive. But it was controversial because of how she was selected.

When leaders of the European Union’s 28 member states nominated von der Leyen earlier this month, she was thrust into the middle of a fight about how the E.U. should choose its president. The European Parliament asserted that its Pan-European “Europarties” should put forward candidates and that voters should choose between them in the European Parliament elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week, the Washington-based think tank Freedom House published its annual Freedom in the World report assessing the state of democracy and freedom in countries around the world. Freedom House assesses countries’ political rights and civil liberties, and categorizes them broadly as “free,” “partly free” and “not free.” The report found a “consistent and ominous” pattern of democracy in retreat across the globe, but its judgment on Hungary was especially notable. Ever since it became a democracy in 1990, Hungary has been categorized as “free.” This year, it was downgraded to the status of “partly free” — along with countries such as Pakistan, Singapore, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.…  Seguir leyendo »