Over time, aid policies between states have assumed increasingly sophisticated forms and concerned sectors of intervention rather far from the humanitarian emergency or development cooperation of Third World derivation, which dominate the imagination in public opinion.
The phases of Covid have confirmed how State Aid (from masks to vaccines) has established itself as a direct tool of foreign policy, an expression of its objectives and, where possible, an extension of its action. Before the pandemic, one of the main historical precedents of large-scale international state assistance was that moved by the West to the Eastern European countries that emerged from the Warsaw Pact in the early 1990s, coinciding with the thunderous and sudden end of the bipolar system.
Among the first and most important aid programs of that season – to the point of having inspired those that followed – was the PHARE (Poland and Hungary Assistance for Economic Restructuring) of the European Union. The name highlighted the two first beneficiaries of the action, both in chronological order and in the number of interventions and resources mobilized.
That today the greatest problems for the European integration process come from those two same countries cannot be considered a case or liquidated with the banal personalization of a clash between good-Europeanists and bad-sovereignists (or the opposite, depending on the points of view). The question to ask is what relationship there is between that type of European assistance and the current clash between Brussels on the one hand, Warsaw and Budapest on the other. It could be hypothesized that of the two and one: either those aids were not effective and did not reach the objective they had set; or they have even been harmful and have inspired the current crisis.
Whatever the response, it is useful to frame the question in a historical-political perimeter to understand it better. The name Phare also recalls that the main focus of Brussels at the time was to facilitate aid in the economic field, despite having to deal with post-communist transitions and serious problems of a constitutional and political-institutional nature.
Nonetheless, promoting the Free Market Economy was a recurring key term in those Aid interventions, much more central than the creation of a Rule of Law. This different weight was due on the one hand to a structural weakness of the European Union in that period, much stronger and more incisive as a multilateral institution in the economic field than in the political one.
However, there was also the fact that on some pillars of the rule of law, such as the administration of justice, Brussels did not have a common “democratic” model to propose on behalf of its Member States; custodians of rather heterogeneous judicial systems. Most of the dozens of technical assistance projects for the justice reform that the EU has financed in third countries in recent decades have focused on technical aspects (computerization of the Courts, enhancement of the training of judges, improvement of the penitentiary system, etc.) – but very little on the overall architecture of the judicial system.
Net of the underlying political conflict, part of the Polish frustration lies precisely in the fact that the (instrumental) object of the dispute today concerns the sacrosanct principle of the independence of justice from politics, of which, however, each EU member state has its own interpretation. and institutional application. Far from being perfect and deserving of being prescriptive (not only in Italy).
So much so that the main European entity that develops principles for effective justice (Cepej, European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice), is not an initiative of the European Union but of the Council of Europe. And it does not produce norms but mere recommendations for the 47 member states of the CoE.
Net of its objectively uncomfortable and rigid political positions, Poland does not understand today why its Constitutional Court is forbidden to declare itself superior to European legislation; while the German one reserves the right, with a simple sentence, to skip the application of the entire mechanism of the Recovery Funds. Ultimately, of that important season of European Aid that allowed them to join the EU, Warsaw and Budapest remember not only how much they took, but also how much they gave in terms of economic opportunities by opening their markets – and geo-political by joining NATO. in anti-Russian function.
Mindful of the fact that state donors pursue (and often obtain) interests on the whole higher than those of the beneficiaries, Poland and Hungary are irritated by being today singled out as solely responsible for the political failures attributable to those policies of Aid, whose rules of engagement they were decided and managed exclusively by Brussels.

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