Poland plays down possible EU budget cuts

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz (R) and European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans (L) are on their way for a meeting in Warsaw, Poland, 09 April 2018. [EPA-EFE/PAWEL SUPERNAK]

Poland on Monday (7 May) played down possible EU funding cuts over its controversial judicial reforms – in addition to sanctions it already faces – saying it sees room for negotiation over financial allocations.

Unveiling the 2021-27 budget last week, the European Union said it could “suspend, reduce or restrict access to EU funding in a manner proportionate to the nature, gravity and scope of the rule-of-law deficiencies.”

Empire strikes back: EU to combat eastern strongmen with funding threat

The European Union will deploy a new financial weapon next week to try to rein in what Brussels sees as illiberal nationalism rising in the east of the bloc and threatening its democratic foundations.

Brussels has been highly critical of judicial and other changes pushed through by right-wing governments in Poland and Hungary, saying they undermine EU democratic norms.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz however said he believed the EU’s draft budget was “a good basis for further negotiations”, according to the Polish PAP news agency.

“The funding cuts in policy areas that are key for us – the common agricultural policy and cohesion policy – are made to a small extent, while there are also new streams of financing for new activities,” Czaputowicz said, adding that “Poland will also benefit from this.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán warned Friday that Budapest could veto – and thus torpedo – the EU budget proposal.

Hungary blasts Commission over EU funding 'blackmail' plan

Hungary said Thursday (3 May) that a European Union plan to link the bloc’s funding payouts to respect for the rule of law amounted to “blackmail”, a day after Brussels unveiled its first post-Brexit multi-year budget plan.

Negotiations on the EU’s trillion-euro-plus budget have been complicated by Britain’s exit from the bloc, which leaves the remaining 27 member states fighting over how to raise and allocate funding.

During a visit to Austria on Monday, the Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini said all participants in the negotiations “should be more open” to compromise between net recipients and contributors to the budget.

“If certain countries are to receive less money in future, perhaps they should also be given more flexibility in return in terms of where and how they use their money,” Pellegrini added.

The draft budget notably proposes cuts to farm support and cohesion monies – used to help newer members conform to EU standards – while offering new funding for economic modernisation and high-tech.

Commission’s 'realistic' budget criticised by member states

The European Commission’s proposal for a moderate increase of EU funds for the next budgetary period (2021-2027) was immediately dismissed as a non-starter by national capitals.

Brussels in December triggered Article 7 of the EU treaty over what it termed “systemic threats” to the independence of the Polish judiciary from the government – a move that could lead to never-before-used sanctions.

EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Věra Jourová “assured me that these (budget) proposals are not directed against any specific state, there is no connection with Article 7,” Czaputowicz told PAP.

Bulgaria dislikes Commission plan to link EU funding to rule of law

A major innovation in the next long-term EU budget proposed by the European Commission yesterday (2 May) is the conditionality between EU funding and the rule of law. But the country holding the EU Presidency voiced its own clear rejection.

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