Hungary to uphold veto of EU budget over rule-of-law provisions, PM aide says

BUDAPEST, Nov 26 (Reuters) – Hungary’s government will uphold its veto of the next European Union budget over because the budget links payments to democratic standards, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday.

Gergely Gulyas told a press briefing that Orban, who will meet his chief ally, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, later on Thursday, would present a joint written position on the standoff over the Hungary and Poland’s veto of the budget and an EU recovery fund.

The veto decision by Poland and Hungary, both beneficiaries of the budget and the recovery plan, is likely to delay hundreds of billions of euros in funds, just as the 27-nation bloc is facing a second wave of COVID-19 and a double-dip recession.

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LUBLIN, POLAND – SEPTEMBER 11: The Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban takes part on a press conference during the Visegrad Summit at the Centre for the Meetings of Culture on September 11, 2020 in Lublin, Poland. The heads of state of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have gathered to discuss the upcoming extraordinary meeting of the European Council, the ongoing political crisis in Belarus as well as relations with Russia and the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)

Both countries are under EU investigation for undermining the independence of courts, media and non-governmental organisations. With the conditions in place, the two nations risk losing access to tens of billions of euros.

“It is unacceptable that anyone should link disbursements of EU funds to political criteria,” Gulyas said, adding that the Hungarian government was sticking to this stance.

Poland and Hungary should ask the EU’s top court to assess the link between access to EU money and observing the rule of law, instead of blocking the EU’s 2021-2027 budget and recovery plan, the head of the European Commission said on Wednesday.

But Gulyas said there was nothing to take to the EU court as “there was no accepted rule of law criteria.”

He also said a proposal to ensure the right of appeal was a “good move by the German government” but was not sufficient.

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Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki, before heading off to Budapest, also sounded firm on the Polish veto at a news conference in Warsaw.

“We warn our friends that the EU should not go this way, we will talk about it with Prime Minister Orban,” he said.

“I am in contact with the Prime Minister of Slovenia and the Visegrad group and we are discussing how to convince the German or Portuguese presidency as soon as possible, and from July 1 the presidency is taken over by Slovenia, whose prime minister issued a letter very clearly specifying the risks, threats and errors associated with this regulation.”

Resolving the issue is also in the interest of Poland and Hungary, which 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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