Next year will be critical for the rule of law – POLITICO

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2022 may be the year the map of the European Union is redrawn.  

For years, right-wing populists gained floor throughout the bloc’s newer member nations, impressed far-right teams throughout the Continent and stoked fears about the union’s democratic future.   

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán consolidated his energy over the media and judiciary. In Poland, the conservative Law and Justice get together launched wide-ranging adjustments to the nation’s judiciary, elevating deep alarm amongst judges, courts and EU establishments. And in Slovenia, Prime Minister Janez Janša put strain on the nation’s publicly funded information company and undermined the course of of appointing prosecutors to the newly established European Public Prosecutor’s workplace.   

Now, nevertheless, the future of Europe’s troublemaker governments is extra unsure than it has been in years.    

Hungary will maintain a parliamentary election this spring, and for the first time, Orbán’s opposition has united in an effort to pose an actual problem to his energy. Whereas the alliance grapples with inner divisions and an uneven enjoying area, the prime minister’s opponents hope to capitalize on issues over high-level corruption and financial challenges to succeed in undecided voters.   

An opposition win would change not solely rhetoric and insurance policies in Budapest but in addition the dynamics in the Council of the European Union, the place Hungary has usually performed the position of the insurgent. It will even have geopolitical implications for the area: Orbán has nurtured ties with Beijing and Moscow, and a brand new authorities would probably make a U-turn and align extra intently with the EU, the United States and NATO. An Orbán victory, on the different hand, would cement the veteran chief’s energy and permit him to proceed constructing an alliance of far-right and Euroskeptic forces throughout the Continent. 

In Poland, 2022 may convey intensified competitors between Law and Justice and its rivals, particularly former Prime Minister Donald Tusk. With tensions deepening between Warsaw and Brussels, the rival camps will probably conflict on each rule of law at residence and coverage towards the EU. Law and Justice — which, in contrast to its Hungarian counterpart, relies on often unpredictable coalition companions to control — will face inner and exterior strain forward of an election anticipated in 2023, if the ruling alliance doesn’t collapse earlier.

And in Slovenia, Janša will be examined in an election anticipated in the first half of 2022. His Slovenian Democratic Social gathering already depends on coalition companions to maintain him in energy. At the identical time, the authorities’s dealing with of the pandemic — mixed with recurring scandals — has raised questions on the prime minister’s political future. 

For all the EU hand-wringing about the degradation of democracy and the rule of law in Central and Jap Europe, this drawback was by no means one which was going to be solved in Brussels. The subsequent few months will reveal whether or not an answer will be present in the area. 


With its giant economic system and excessive geopolitical significance, Warsaw’s political battles have implications far past Poland’s personal borders.   

Jarosław Kaczyński 

The 72-year-old chief of Law and Justice is the strongest individual in Poland — regardless of his lack of a flowery job title. Behind the scenes, the veteran politician is anticipated to proceed enjoying a significant position in Warsaw’s decision-making, together with tips on how to handle issues from Brussels about the independence of the judiciary.   

Donald Tusk   

The ex-prime minister and former European Council president has returned to steer opposition get together Civic Platform. And whereas Poland’s opposition is split, his efforts do current a problem for the ruling get together. Tusk is campaigning to persuade Poles — who overwhelmingly assist EU membership — that the authorities is placing their desires in danger.   


Hungary’s 2022 election will be watched intently throughout the bloc. The stakes are excessive for each the ruling Fidesz get together and its opponents, and the marketing campaign is anticipated to get ugly.   

Viktor Orbán   

To his followers, Viktor Orbán is a patriot bent on defending Hungary’s nationwide pursuits. To his critics, he’s a wannabe autocrat. The upcoming election may be a make-or-break second for his profession, however it additionally raises existential questions for the prime minister and the businesspeople who rose on his coattails.   

Péter Márki-Zay 

The conservative mayor of the southern metropolis of Hódmezővásárhely is Orbán’s unlikely challenger in the 2022 election. However the mayor, who’s working on an anti-corruption platform, faces an uphill battle as the ruling get together mobilizes the may of its assets — from billboard campaigns to the state media — towards him and the opposition alliance. 


Whereas Europe’s rule-of-law issues usually revolve round Hungary and Poland, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša’s rhetoric and Twitter habits have additionally raised eyebrows in European capitals.

Janez Janša 

The longtime politician is an in depth Orbán ally who has gained a repute for firing off unsavory tweets. However Janša’s place at residence is way from entrenched. Critics say that whereas there are worries about the Slovenian authorities’s strikes, in specific its assaults on the media, the nation’s democratic establishments stay intact. 

Tanja Fajon

A former journalist and EU correspondent, Fajon leads Slovenia’s opposition Social Democrats. She is at the moment a member of the European Parliament, the place she has labored on points reminiscent of relations with the Western Balkans.

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