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Taking the temperature of EU’s problem members

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Vienna, September 6, 2021

EU “must stop threatening to kick Members out”

by Edward Steen, Sec-General

In an illuminating interview with Brigitte Rambossek (AEJ Austria Section) on the fringes of the Alpbach Forum, Austria’s Europe Minister Karoline Edtstadler rejected ever-louder demands that EU Members, notably Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia, all flagrantly suppressing press freedom, should face ejection from the Union.

That was out of the question, said the former MEP, pictured above: “If there are deficits in the rule of law, these must be pointed out”. The right approach was “to talk to each other”, she said, adding carefully: “Some things are the responsibility of the nation-state,” and there was a limit to how much influence the EU could have. “But I think it would be completely wrong and send the wrong signal to threaten to kick a country out.”

The AEJ interview stressed her belief in the “very high value of press freedom”, which was anchored in the Human Rights Convention and a basic democratic prerequisite. “We have had the Rule of Law Report for a year. she said. The second country report has now come out. With that, you can take the temperature of the rule of law, based on the same parameters.”

Rambossek asked who in the EU should do this. “The Commission is the guardian of the treaties and produces the Rule of Law Report. I see it as having the responsibility to try to influence things“, responded the minister,” a comment which reflected the prevalent unease among EU Member States about extending European Commission powers even in the face of the openly defiant behaviour of “problem” states. Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová, responsible for European values and transparency, is especially frustrated by the reluctance of the Commission, to get tough.


AEJ interview published by APA (Austrian News Agency) and reproduced inter alia in the Vienna daily Wiener Zeitung  and on Austrian radio. 

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Interview in English

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