“The European Union is Not a State”
The Polish government has been on the receiving end of repeated criticism from EU officials over what they view as the country’s democratic backsliding. Frustrated at Poland’s refusal to comply with several directives, the European Commission has withheld millions in funding earmarked for the country. The controversy reached a near boiling point several weeks ago when Poland’s top court ruled that parts of European law may violate Poland’s constitution.
In the midst of the high-stakes controversy, the country’s prime minister this week delivered a fiery defense of national sovereignty to the European Parliament:
The Union is a great achievement of the countries of Europe. It is a strong economic, political and social alliance. It is the strongest, most developed international organization in history. But the European Union is not a state. The States are the 27 Member States of the Union! The States are European sovereigns - they are the "masters of the treaties" and it is the States that define the scope of the competences entrusted to the European Union.
In the treaties, we have entrusted the Union with a very large range of competences. But we have not entrusted it with everything. Many areas of law remain the competence of nation states.
The speech drew angry responses from EU officials and other European diplomats, including a German parliament member who accused the Polish of acting like Russian president Vladimir Putin. But for all their frustration with Poland’s leadership, key EU members are not necessarily on the same page as the European Commission about how to respond. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The fight—the sharpest in several years of skirmishes between West European countries that founded the EU and conservative-ruled Poland and Hungary—has taken an unexpected twist in recent days.
Some of the EU’s biggest member states, including France, Germany and others that have openly criticized Warsaw, are pressing the Commission not to rush ahead with measures that could deepen confrontation with Warsaw. Quick pressure, they fear, could prompt Poland to respond by blocking swaths of EU decisions and weaken Polish pro-EU sentiment, which remains strong.
Stand and Deliver
The World Trade Organization this week conducted a review of China’s trade policies. Often sleepy affairs, this particular review generated extended (and quite critical) statements from several important WTO members. Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, and the United States all blasted elements of Beijing’s trade policy, including “economic coercion,” forced labor practices, and intellectual property violations. The U.S. top representative to the WTO did not mince words:
China has used the imprimatur of WTO membership to become the WTO’s largest trader, while doubling down on its state-led, non-market approach to trade, to the detriment of workers and businesses in the United States and other countries…
These regular reviews have been part of the WTO’s practice since the organization was born in the mid-1990s. (For a list of recent trade reviews, see here.) And together with the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, the WTO process marks a notable trend in the work of multilateral organizations. These institutions may not have much enforcement power (and the WTO in particular has less than it did thanks to a U.S. boycott of the body’s appellate system), but they can at least create an expectation that governments will stand in front of other states and defend their records.
Foreign Policy’s Amy Mackinnon reported on the controversy surrounding invitations to the U.S.-led Summit for Democracy, planned to take place virtually in December. A key question has been which countries to invite and, as a consequence, how expansive the definition of “democracy” should be:
The question of which countries would be on the invite list has prompted months of speculation amid a global trend of democratic backsliding, including among some allies within the European Union and NATO, such as Poland, Hungary, and Turkey.
“What we’re trying to do through the Summit for Democracy is to galvanize democratic renewal worldwide,” said a senior administration official, speaking on background on the condition of anonymity. “Because of that, we’re seeking a really inclusive, big-tent approach,” the official said.
The idea of a democracy confab appeared consistently during President Biden’s campaign, but planning for the event moved slowly at the beginning of the administration, in part because of complications about the invite list.
Richard Gowan explains what the UN Security Council has done—and not done—regarding climate change.
France’s defense minister urged NATO members not to fear moves toward greater EU military cooperation.
During a major speech, Russian president Vladimir Putin defended his country’s veto power at the Security Council. He predicted the UN “would die the same day” the veto power was removed. (It’s not clear why Putin is concerned—any amendment to the Charter would require Russian approval.)
Azerbaijan wants the International Court of Justice to make Armenia turn over maps with landmine locations.
Malaysia’s foreign minister thinks that ASEAN should revisit its traditional policy of non-interference in its members’ internal affairs.
A Brazilian Senate panel accused the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, of crimes against humanity—and raised the possibility of a referral to the International Criminal Court.
Controversy over intellectual property waivers will feature at a high-level meeting between the European Union and the African Union. Meanwhile, Israel appears to have retained its status as an observer at the African Union.
A prize for the head of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
New and Notable:
Writing in the journal International Peacekeeping, Paul Williams reviewed several new books on UN peace operations, including one by Georgetown University scholar Lise Morjé Howard. The last several years have seen a profusion of interesting new work on peacekeeping by Séverine Autesserre, Sharath Srinivasan, and other scholars and experts.