Hungary and Poland’s opposition to Brussels’ oversight of the rule of law and their vetoes over the long-term EU budget and the coronavirus recovery fund are symptomatic of bigger problems in the EU that go beyond the divisions within the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), a Greek government official told EURACTIV.
“The discussion over the veto of Hungary and Poland is bigger than the EPP”, said the official, who asked not to be named.
Earlier this week, Hungary and Poland vetoed the EU’s long-term budget and the coronavirus rescue fund, jointly worth €1.8 trillion, marking their opposition to a proposed mechanism tying EU funds to the rule of law.
Centre-right Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša also backed Warsaw and Budapest in a letter to EU Council President Charles Michel.
Although the German presidency remains optimistic that a solution can still be found at a summit of EU leaders on Thursday (19 November), the issue has caused headaches in the conservative political family, considering that both Hungarian Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party and Jansa’s SDS belong to the EPP.
Critics inside the party say that the long-standing EPP’s tolerance toward the illiberal stance of Orbán has contributed to the current deadlock at the EU level in such unprecedented critical times of a pandemic.
However, EURACTIV was informed that at an EPP parliamentary group meeting held on Wednesday, only “mild criticism” of Orbán’s stance was expressed.
“No one backed Orbán but no one suggested drastic moves either,” an EPP source told EURACTIV.
Another EPP source explained that regarding Orbán and the EPP, “nothing happened in the past, nothing is happening now, and nothing is expected to happen in the near future”.
Last April, a number of centre-right leaders asked EPP chief Donald Tusk to expel Orban’s Fidesz from EPP, but they failed to do so due to the lack of the necessary majority.
But the Greek official said that even if Orbán had been expelled, the stalemate on the EU decision-making level would still remain.
“Nothing will change. That’s why the issue of rule of law and the EU budget is bigger than the EPP,” the Greek government official said.
In the EPP circles, it is increasingly believed that outside the EPP, Orbán would become even more radical, making compromise at EU level even more difficult.
Others emphasise that the problems of Europe are wider, citing as an example the diverging standpoints of Germany and France, the two pillars of Europe, regarding EU defence.
“France, which is currently the only nuclear power in the EU, pushes for Europe’s strategic autonomy even in military operations. On the other hand, Germany describes EU security without US as an illusion. This is madness,” a source said.
[Edited by Georgi Gotev]