From the Editors

Poland and/or Hungary leave the EU? Don’t be silly

Enough of the silliness. Neither Poland nor Hungary will ever leave the European Union. Nor, as we have explained on numerous occasions, can they be kicked out.

It’s silly season, that time of year when most of Europe’s parliaments take their annual holiday and the process of government is left on autopilot.

As much of the current affairs news cycle relies on politicians saying or doing things, there can, during the holiday period, be an almost total absence of news stories.

Very little happens at this time of year – although the dismissal of Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin on August 10 bucked that trend somewhat.

Hence the notion of ‘silly’ season, when media outlets desperate to fill space often resort to publishing stories that are, for want of another word, silly.

So far this silly season there has been a plethora of articles suggesting that both Poland and Hungary – who seem to be perennially in dispute with the European Union – could be about to leave the bloc.

Either that, or the pair are on the verge of being kicked out for the various misdemeanours.

Most of these ‘stories’ are based on nothing more than the odd word or two from Polish or Hungarian politicians – almost always taken out of context.

The latest round of such stories appeared last week after Hungary’s Finance Minister Mihály Varga suggested that the country could “reassess” its relationship with the EU at some stage in the future.

“If there was a referendum on staying in the EU 2021, I’d be among those who’d vote yes to EU membership,” Varga told the news website. “But by the end of the decade, when according to our calculations we’d become net payers in the EU, the question may be cast in a new perspective, especially if the attacks by Brussels over values become sustained.”

Nothing in that statement suggests Hungary is planning to leave the EU, neither now or in the future. That did not stop the doomsayers from suggesting otherwise, however.

As for the idea that a country – be it Hungary, Poland, or anybody else who continually bashes EU values – could be kicked out of the bloc, we have explained on these pages before that doing so is, in practical terms, impossible.

The only legal provision for a state to be entirely disassociated from the EU is the infamous Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union, which has to be triggered by the member state that wants to leave.

Only the United Kingdom has ever done so.

As for the notion that either country would ever vote to leave the EU, polls in both consistently show that EU membership enjoys high levels of support.

The nuclear option

There is, of course, the nuclear option: the Polish or Hungarian governments could trigger Article 50 unilaterally, without first consulting their populations in a referendum.

This would likely lead to revolution, however, and is not going to happen.

Then there’s the simple fact that both Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) and Fidesz in Hungary are – for all their many, many faults – committed to the European Union, as are their leaders, Jarosław Kaczyński and Viktor Orbán.

They would undoubtedly like to change a great deal about the EU, but they do not want to leave it.

Without it their countries are doomed.

So the next time you see a headline suggesting that Poland and/or Hungary ‘could be’ (it’s always ‘could be’) set to leave the European Union, ignore it. The words written underneath are not worth your time.

Unlike many news and information platforms, Emerging Europe is free to read, and always will be. There is no paywall here. We are independent, not affiliated with nor representing any political party or business organisation. We want the very best for emerging Europe, nothing more, nothing less. Your support will help us continue to spread the word about this amazing region.

You can contribute here. Thank you.

emerging europe support independent journalism

1 Comment

Click here to post a comment

  • “There is, of course, the nuclear option: the Polish or Hungarian governments could trigger Article 50 unilaterally, without first consulting their populations in a referendum. This would likely lead to revolution, however, and is not going to happen.”

    You know, I’m getting a bit tired of “They wouldn’t dare” kind of narrative. I assure you that as someone whose first interest in politics was aroused around the time the first PiS government took hold in 2005, I couldn’t be happier when they were ejected from office in the 2007 elections. Back then, I was 100% sure I’d seen the worst of that. Let me tell you, what they’re doing now makes their last time in power look like respectable Christian democracy in comparison. It is under this government that I not only first started asking myself the question “WIll they voluntarily give up power after they lose an election?”, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that the answer to that is a resounding no.

    So I’m sorry but I’m just not buying that there are limits these guys won’t cross anymore out of any fear of public reaction. Did you see what was going through this country after they banned abortion back in October? The biggest protests in 30 years. Did they back out one inch? No. They sat it out, protected the police mishandling the protesters, threatened public officials with firing if they are seen attending… slowly but surely, they successfully intimidated the whole country. If they’re not pushing for an immediate Polexit, it’s most definitely not because they fear what society might do to them; it’s simply because they themselves don’t want to. For now.

    But that is changing rapidly as we speak. It’s not like they will run out of money if Poland leaves the EU, right? To quote a head of communist-era TV in the mid-1980s, when asked about Reagan’s sactions on Poland, “the government can feed itself”.

    So please, stop assuring everybody that nothing’s going on because a LOT is in fact going on. Things that might shape this country’s future for decades to come.