In a shot across the bows of certain European politicians, the French President has spoken about the possibility of member states being suspended or expelled from the European Union (EU) if ‘right-wing’ governments come to power.
The threat to kick out EU member states who offend certain rules was made by socialist President Francois Hollande during a France Inter radio interview, reports Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten. He said a country can be “suspended” from the EU as “Europe has legal tools, through articles in treaties, to prevent a country from violating democratic principles.”
He added: “When the freedom of the media is at stake or when constitutions and human rights are endangered, Europe cannot act just as a safety net. It has to put in place procedures to suspend offending countries. It can go that far.”
In the history of the EU to date no such measure has been taken against any country. However, in a warning to certain democratically elected governments of member states, President Hollande did state that “checks” are necessary to monitor the proposed reform programme of Poland’s Law and Justice Party government.
The only EU precedent for such an action pre-dates the ability of the bloc to expel a member state. Austria was sanctioned in 2000 because of the inclusion in coalition government of the late Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party of Austria. Expelling a member state was not possible at the time, but in light of Mr. Haider’s praise for the German Nazi Party’s employment policies and his referring to concentration camps as penal camps other member states did threaten a diplomatic boycott.
In the event, other than formal EU meetings, contacts between Austria and the then 14 other member states of the EU were reduced.
Some predict that President Hollande’s proposal could end up backfiring. French voters who do not identify as ‘right-wing’ but do see themselves as Eurosceptics could end up voting for Marine Le Pen’s National Front as a means of speeding up the country’s exit from the EU.
Indeed in recent polling Ms. Le Pen’s brand of anti-mass migration euroscepticism is proving to be more popular with the voting public than President Hollande’s socialism, although she does fall marginally behind his Prime Minister, Manuel Valls.