Hungary, Poland double down to try to eject rule-of-law condition from EU budget


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© Reuters. Hungarian PM Orban and Polish PM Morawiecki meet in Budapest

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By Marton Dunai and Alan Charlish

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary and Poland said on Thursday the EU could not attach rule-of-law conditions to funds unless the bloc changed its founding treaty, digging in their heels after vetoing the EU budget and a coronavirus recovery fund earlier this month.

The European Union is investigating the nationalist governments of the two countries for undermining the independence of their judiciaries and media, and had sought to attach conditions to the disbursement of EU cash.

Poland and Hungary responded by blocking 1.8 trillion euros worth of EU funds, including hundreds of billions due to be disbursed soon to help pull the bloc out of a double-dip recession caused by a second wave of COVID-19.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said those who would withhold the emergency funding were being “irresponsible, as at a time of crisis rapid decisions are needed to aid the economy.”

“This debate cannot be solved with money,” he said standing alongside Poland’s premier Mateusz Morawiecki in Budapest.

Morawiecki stood by the veto decision.

“The use of veto today is the base scenario that we discussed in order to actually change the bad dynamics that have recently been imposed,” Morawiecki said.

The premiers issued a joint statement which emphasised their shared position.

A senior EU diplomat said EU member states and European lawmakers had no appetite to re-negotiate the condition linking money to respect for democratic principles.

“With their statement, Poland and Hungary are moving deeper and deeper into isolation,” the diplomat said. “It is clear that there is absolutely no support for reopening the conditionality mechanism in the European Parliament or in the Council.”

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Poland and Hungary would receive some of the highest amounts per capita from the EU. Both badly need the funds to help their economies overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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