Europe’s unprecedented challenge from the authoritarians in the east

How the EU deals with members flouting core western liberal norms and values could overshadow Brexit wrangling in 2018

Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party.

Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Poland’s increasingly authoritarian Law and Justice party. Photograph: Czarek Sokołowski/AP

n 2017, Europe survived the crunch Dutch, French and German elections that – after Brexit and Trump – many predicted would mark the beginning of its end. In 2018, the biggest threats could come from the east.

When Poland and Hungary joined the EU in 2004, the integration of the former communist bloc countries was seen as critical to the bloc’s post-cold war advance. Barely a decade later, they risk becoming its first rogue states.

How Europe deals with members deliberately flouting the core western liberal norms and values it strives to embody – social tolerance, respect for free speech, an independent judiciary – could dominate 2018 far more than Britain’s exit.

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