It does not matter whether it’s about gay rights or something else

IT’S TIME TO KICK POLAND AND HUNGARY OUT OF THE EU

The European Union is first and foremost a community of shares values. In the EU democracy, tolerance, freedom, diversity, the rule of law and human rights for everyone should be self-evident foundations. Any violation of these very basic principles should have no place in the European Union, if the EU wants to remain a model and a champion of progressive governance in the 21st century.

That’s the ideal. In reality, not every single European country has reached the level of societal and political maturity worthy of the postmodern era. The modern era gave us science, civil rights and the contemporary nation-state but we do not need to forget that it gave us also nationalism, genocide and racism. The development of human society did not stop in 1945 or 1989. History has not ended.

Many countries in Central and Eastern Europe appear to have this problem. On one hand they are happy to have been freed from the Soviet joke and in this respect there aren’t more enthusiastic supporters of the European Union. The Soviet Communist past stands for tyranny, poverty, darkness and foreign occupation, while being in communion with Western Europe is synonym for prosperity, freedom and democracy. On the other hand, for many in Central and Eastern Europe, joining the West seems to be more about extracting the material benefits than about anything else.

Happy to receive billions of euros every year from the European budget, states like Poland and Hungary find themselves at odds with the shared inclusive values of the postnationalist European Union, and are not ashamed to attack the EU for what they seem to regard as postmodernist decadence.

Sure, many in Poland and Hungary, especially the young from the big cities, appear to love the EU much more than they love their government and their countries in general. The EU stands for human rights, especially with regard to women’s reproductive rights and LGBT rights, and the urban young see the Law and Justice and the Orban governments as stuck in the Middle Ages. But even in the big cities, Central and Eastern Europe still display a rather unwelcoming and unpalatable closeness towards the truly European values of diversity and inclusiveness. Week in, week out, LGBT people are attacked on mainstream magazine covers with scaring regularity, something that what would utterly unthinkable in truly European countries like France and Germany.

In Western Europe, which laid the foundation of the contemporary European Union, there is a tacit consensus that things like LGBT, women and immigrants’s rights are sacrosanct and shall not be questioned. This realization is clearly beyond the horizon of many Polish and Hungarian politicians that gain political capital on a livid and divisive rhetoric of hatred, just like Donald Trump, appealing to the lowest instincts of their electorates.

Western Europe naively thought that economic integration would transform Eastern Europe and make its society more like the West. While Western products are omnipresent in Poland and Hungary’s shops, Poles and Hungarians have not freed themselves of a stubborn and sclerotic form of conservatism that is afraid of anything new, like gay marriage or adoptions for gay couples.

While every country in the EU should be able to choose its own government, antiliberalism is incompatible with the EU. This is more than about abortions, gay marriage or respect for trans people. This is about core European values that come directly from the enlightenment and its tradition of tolerance opposed to ignorant bigotry. If Poland and Hungary are unable to abide to these basic principles, the European Union cannot continue to regard these states as members and must start procedure to exclude them from the block. Because the European Union is about building a bright future together and it must firmly stand opposed against the dark forces that want to drag it back to a protofascist intolerant era.