Hungarian, Polish PMs to discuss EU budget veto

File photo. Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki (R) and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban (L) during a working session at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, 1 May 2019. [Marcin Obara/EPA/EFE]

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will hold talks with his Polish counterpart in Budapest Thursday (26 November) on their recent EU budget veto, as Orbán suggested a possible solution to the row.

In an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit to be published on Thursday, Orbán suggested separating out the rule-of-law dispute from the bloc’s coronavirus response.

“The countries in need want the money quickly. Let’s give it to them,” he told the paper.

“Other countries want new rules about the rule of law — OK, let’s talk about that. But the first thing we have to do immediately, the second is less urgent” and “can wait a few months,” he continued.

Pressure mounts on Hungary, Poland to lift EU budget veto

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On Thursday, Orbán will receive his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki to discuss their next steps after vetoing the EU’s €1.8-trillion budget and coronavirus rescue package.

Both states are accused by Brussels of rolling back democratic freedoms.

The talks between the two leaders were confirmed to the Hungarian state newswire MTI by Orbán’s press officer on Wednesday.

“The meeting’s agenda is expected to include the MFF as Poland and Hungary intend to coordinate EU Budget negotiating positions,” said a message by the Permanent Representation of Poland to the EU on Twitter, referring to the bloc’s multi-annual financial framework (MFF) or long-term budget.

Morawiecki said after the veto that a “European oligarchy” was trying to bully weaker EU members, while Orbán called the conditionality plan a politically motivated “weapon” and a form of “blackmail” against member states opposed to immigration.

EU leaders have since intensified efforts to convince Orbán and Morawiecki to drop their veto, which has plunged the bloc into a new crisis threatening joint efforts to fight the epidemic.

EU anger

While the veto was not a complete surprise, the stand-off angered EU countries, with many keenly awaiting payouts from the stimulus to help fix economies shattered by the pandemic and fears of worse to come.

But the rule-of-law issue is hugely sensitive for both Warsaw and Budapest.

Poland is already subject to an EU investigative procedure over its efforts to trim the independence of the judiciary, as is Hungary for an erosion of democratic norms, such as press freedom, under Orbán’s rule.

“Many types of solutions are possible, it’s just a question of political will,” Orbán said last Friday.

Acceptable solutions for Hungary and Poland “would be those reached on the basis of legal standpoints rather than the political majority,” he told Hungarian public media.

In the Die Zeit interview, Orbán accused Germany, which currently holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, of being responsible for the current impasse.

Rule of law designed to ‘starve out’ Hungary

Hungary blocked the EU’s seven-year budget and recovery package because the rule of law “conditionality [is] in contradiction with the July EU Council deal” of the bloc’s leaders, said Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga after the meeting of EU affairs …

“What’s happening now is what we describe as a creeping change of contract, a renegotiation in which those potentially affected aren’t being consulted,” he said.

“The German train is hurtling towards us and wants to derail us,” he said, adding that he had conveyed his concerns to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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