Jean Asselborn: “We must continue to put pressure on Poland and Hungary” | International

Jean Asselborn, during the interview, on October 21 in Madrid.
Jean Asselborn, during the interview, on October 21 in Madrid.KIKE TO

Both when he expressly mentions them or not, two names hover over the speech of the Luxembourg Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn: Poland and Hungary, the two EU countries whose authoritarian drift worries Brussels and has recently led the partners to agree on the linking European funds with compliance with the rule of law. Asselborn (Steinfort, 71 years old) insists that the debate on the application of article 7 of the EU Treaty, which allows to suspend the right to vote in the European institutions of the country that violates the fundamental values ​​of the Union, must remain alive. “We cannot stop it,” he underlines in an interview in Madrid carried out last month. The Commission has initiated a procedure against Warsaw based on that article and the European Parliament has promoted the same file against Budapest, but the issue is stuck in the Council of the EU.

“What worries me is that we have forgotten, or we have the will to forget, that Europe does not work if the rules of democracy and the rule of law are not respected. If billions of euros from the European taxpayer circulate, the rule of law must be respected. That is not a big deal: freedom of the press, judicial independence, separation of powers … And if there are states, at least two, where that is a problem, we must continue to apply pressure, “says the minister.

Asselborn insists on the urgency of the problem and puts a time horizon – “long before 10 years” – in which “either we accept the rules of Europe or we stop accepting them.” “Or those same countries [las aceptan] or we say to them: ‘we can’t continue like this’. We can’t let even more years go by. [El primer ministro húngaro, Viktor] Orbán began in 2010 to question the rule of law. And it has to stop one day, as soon as possible ”.

“Everything is easy in the European Parliament, because there is always a large majority in defense of the ideals of Europe. I think even in the Commission. The problem is the Council, where there is a tendency to say that you have to defend your own interests against European interests. And that is going to end badly, “he says. For this reason, he points out, ideas matter more than names: “Europe does not need heroes. It needs people who defend the European ideal, which is responsibility, solidarity and, above all, respect for the rules of democracy ”.

Two years ago, Asselborn emerged from the quasi-anonymity that implies leading the diplomacy of the second smallest country in the EU, both in terms of territory and population (600,000 inhabitants), thanks to two words that went viral, “shit then!”(Something like“ damn ”using the word“ shit ”), with which he ended a public discussion with the then Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini. “It was a bit of a joke, but it was also a cry to say that Europe must respect the Geneva Convention, have a European migration policy and that there are no slaves in Africa, but human beings.” He admits that he knows the date of the incident by heart (September 15, 2018) and, when speaking of Salvini (today in the opposition and in low hours), he abandons the diplomatic language that he uses in the rest of the interview: “It’s a exponent of that egoistic, populist Europe and, when he says that there are slaves in Africa, also racist ”. Along the lines of Spain, Luxembourg considers that the proposal for a migration pact presented last September by the Commission is lame without “the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers for all countries,” he says.

The minister, from the socialist party, assures that covid-19 has shown the need to invest in sanitary equipment and rethink some production policies. “In a crisis like this, which has not yet been resolved, it is necessary to give citizens the guarantee that the health and hospital system works. And at the European level, we cannot delegate everything to Asia: medicines, medical equipment… It was a bit easy for us. 15 years ago I began to be a minister. If this crisis had taken place then, it would have been the Europeans who would have given the equipment to the Chinese, and today it is the other way around ”.