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Why the EU can’t kick out Hungary

A pro-LGBT demonstration in Amsterdam. Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Hungary’s renegade prime minister, Viktor Orban, has exposed “one of the EU’s biggest design flaws”, says Andreas Kluth in Bloomberg: the bloc has no mechanism for booting anybody out. Orban’s latest affront is a law that stigmatises homosexuality. The Dutch PM, Mark Rutte, bluntly told his Hungarian opposite number at a recent summit: if you don’t share our liberal values, there’s the door. But Orban is sitting pretty. Poland, Hungary’s hard-right ally, will always have his back if the EU tries to remove his voting powers. And the bloc’s built-in unanimity requirement means Orban need not worry “how much further up his populist tree he wants to climb”. 

The prerogative to expel members is philosophically “baked into the liberal tradition”. The US Congress, like most parliaments, can and has expelled bad apples from its ranks – 20, in fact – while ancient Athens, the world’s first democracy, allowed citizens to vote out rotters on shards of pottery called ostraka (hence “ostracism”). But the EU differs because once you’re in, you’re in. A similar flaw “keeps the brass at Nato awake”: in the early years they worried Italy would become communist “and serve as a Trojan horse for the Soviets”. More recently the bogeyman has been anti-democratic Turkey. No wonder gaining admission to either organisation is so onerous: “The power to expel is nothing to trifle with.” But with so much at stake, the EU needs an eject button. 

Read the full article here (paywall).