Throw out countries like Poland and Hungary that ‘backslide’ on democracy, Sweden’s ex-PM tells Brussels

Socialist opposition leader Magdalena Andersson used a May Day speech to call for the European Union to push through treaty changes that make it easier to punish and expel countries not living up to the bloc's idea of democracy

FILE - Then Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

The European Union should amend its treaties and arm itself with the power to throw out member states that fail to live up to the bloc’s democratic standards, Sweden’s former Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has said.

Speaking ahead of her May Day speech on Wednesday, the Scandinavian nation’s opposition leader claimed that Brussels has strict requirements for candidate countries when it comes to democratic principles, and should expect the same from existing members.

“What we have seen is that countries that are already members are heading in the wrong direction. Countries that are dismantling the basic elements of democracy. That is why we believe that a democratically secure Europe is needed,” Andersson told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet before her speech.

The former prime minister initially refused to name the countries she had in mind, but Dagens Nyheter reported that when pressed for an answer, she replied, “Poland and Hungary.”

“The European Parliament has said that Hungary is a hybrid regime. And we also see how other countries have taken steps that go in the wrong direction. It is clear that the requirements we have for countries to become members of the EU, those requirements must of course also apply to countries that are members of the EU,” Andersson added.

Speaking in Gothenburg, the Social Democrats leader claimed that democratic values were being “eroded” in certain European nations and proposed treaty changes to “make it easier to withhold money from countries that are dismantling democracy and make it possible to completely exclude a country that has completed such dismantling.”

She revealed that Sweden’s left-wing MEPs would be making the case for such reforms in the next European Parliament. “Now it’s about driving public opinion to get other countries on board.”

Liberals across Europe have had Hungary in their crosshairs for the past decade, ever since Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán used a 2014 speech to criticize Brussels’ promotion of “liberal democracy” as a tool to favor the wealthy, impress globalization on nations, and rob them of their sovereignty.

He called for the creation of an illiberal, or non-liberal state that “does not deny foundational values of liberalism such as freedom,” but applies a “specific, national approach” that favors the “common good of the Hungarian people.”

The left-wing majority in the European Parliament has since leaped on the phrase “illiberal democracy,” classing Hungary as an “electoral autocracy” in a report adopted back in September 2022.

It also attacked Poland under the previous conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government, backing moves by the European Commission to withhold critical funds owed to both Warsaw and Budapest until the respective administrations passed reforms on the rule of law and democracy deemed acceptable to Brussels.

These funds were finally released to Poland just weeks after former Eurocrat Donald Tusk succeeded Mateusz Morawiecki as Poland’s prime minister, despite concerns over backsliding on press freedom and the rule of law by the new left-liberal government following the dismantling of public broadcasters and the imprisonment of two conservative MPs.

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