Military and civilian
However this euphoria soon melted away – the gap between EU ambitions to become an important actor of the international security system and its capabilities became appearent right after the Maastricht Treaty. Europe was not prepared to deal with crises in its own backyard – the Balkans. Only NATO managed to stop the bloodshed and achieve the Dayton peace treaty of 1995. The EU efforts to handle the Middle East peace process were a continuous failure. Even the process of EU enlargement seemed to be the result of rapid NATO enlargement.
The Schengen passport-free zone was originally created by France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in 1985 near the Luxembourg town of Schengen. It was put into practice in 1990 and expanded to cover the larger EU in 1995, except for the islands of Britain and Ireland, which remained outside the pact. Non-EU members Norway and Iceland also joined the zone in 2001, and in 2007, nine new EU member states, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe, joined.
By the end of 2016 a growing number of European countries were opposed to confrontion with Russia and were eager to end the economic sanctions imposed by the West. Ppro-Russian governents had come to power in Moldova, Bulgaria, and Estonia, and more were possible in 2017 in Austria, France, Italy, and even in Germany. The Netherlands, Greece, Cyprus, and Spain had already expressed discontent with the sanctions and the stalemated proxy war in Ukraine. And one anti-Russian government, the United Kingdom, had left Europe via Brexit.
Post-Brexit, EU enlargements were no longer conceivable. The news for all Ukrainians, Moldovans and Georgians was that EU enlargement embracing post-Soviet states or Balkan States had been delayed to a faraway future. The prospect of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia joining the EU had been destroyed until further notice. Indirectly, it meant that these countries would be pushed back into Russia's historic sphere of influence, even though no one in the European Union would openly admit it.
On 11 March 2014 the European Commission adopted a new framework for addressing systemic threats to the rule of law in any of the EU's 28 Member States. The initiative comes after the College of Commissioners held two orientation debates on the rule of law on 28 August 2013 and on 25 February 2014, which concluded that there is a need to develop a tool to deal, at EU level, with systemic threats to the rule of law. The new rule of law framework will be complementary to infringement procedures - when EU law has been breached – and to the so-called 'Article 7 procedure' of the Lisbon Treaty which, at its most severe, allows for the suspension of voting rights in case of a "serious and persistent breach" of EU values by a Member State.
The new framework established an early warning tool allowing the Commission to enter into a dialogue with the Member State concerned to prevent the escalation of systemic threats to the rule of law. If no solution is found within the new EU rule of law framework, Article 7 would always remain the last resort to resolve a crisis and ensure compliance with European Union values. The new framework does not constitute or claim new competencies for the Commission but makes transparent how the Commission exercises its role under the Treaties.
By 2018 the split between east and west within the EU was getting much wider. The rift was evidenced by the fact that the so-called "New East Bloc" of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia had remained steadfast in their refusal to implement majority measures regarding the redistribution of refugees. That was clearly a breach of contract, as the European Court of Justice had found. With their persistent intransigence, these countries were attacking the very foundation of the EU, which is based on legal compliance. Poland, for its part, had decided to crown this sad state of affairs by insisting upon completely dismantling the rule of law at home.
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