2 December 2020

MP Open Call #3 – Polish-Hungarian Veto of EU Budget Sparks Polarization Debate

On our latest MP Open Call, which took place on 2 December 2020, five members of the Open European Dialogue from Hungary, Slovenia, France, Lithuania, and Sweden, reflected on how to keep our societies, and Europe, together.

As a space for informal exchange between parliamentarians, the participants were invited to bring up their own topics of interest in an open-agenda format. The conversation started with Poland’s and Hungary’s announcement to veto the Covid-19 relief funds and the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) of the EU due to the inclusion of a “rule of law” provision in the fielded Council proposal. While this issue has been discussed in depth from foreign and European policy angles, the participating parliamentarians shared a feeling of unease about more profound developments not limited to Hungary or Poland. One MP pointed out that the tendency towards seeking national solutions had been around for some time and that even during the current crisis, Europe had failed to share enough knowledge, equipment, or other resources leading many countries to prioritizing their immediate national interests. Others further noted that this tendency towards divisions was also visible within countries, complicating political debates and creating deeper rifts between governments and opposition parties.

The MPs are not alone in expressing their perception that societal polarization is growing. The topic has received much attention during the past decade, however often mainly looking at the United States, where there is clear evidence of a growing rift between political parties and voter groups. In Europe, the situation seems to be more differentiated. Nonetheless, polarization can have detrimental effects on the functioning of democracies and policymakers are understandably concerned by it. More information on polarization in Europe compiled by members of the OED team can be found here.

By the end of the call, it was clear that while the most salient challenge to European politics at the moment is the veto announcement by Hungary and Poland, the underlying issues will not go away once this crisis is resolved. On the MP Open Call, parliamentarians elucidated several aspects of social divisions that will require attention in the future, and this conversation may have been a first step to developing necessary answers together. It became clear as well that dialogue will not only be key in exposing how polarization plays out in different contexts as it did on this call, but also in bridging the societal divisions the participants described.

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