EU blocked over sanctions on Hungary, Poland

“We will take stock of what is happening in Hungary and Poland, but as we have two processes in parallel, we will never find unanimity to come out of this,” she said, acknowledging that the EU is in a “very complicated situation”. [EPA/EFE-JOHN THYS]

The Portuguese secretary of state for European affairs has acknowledged that Portugal’s EU presidency will face difficulties in applying sanctions to Hungary and Poland for violations of the rule of law.

Ana Paula Zacarias said Portugal has scheduled a debate on Article 7 concerning Poland and Hungary for the General Affairs Council in May to examine the situation in both countries in terms of the rule of law.

“We will take stock of what is happening in Hungary and Poland, but as we have two processes in parallel, we will never find unanimity to come out of this,” she said, acknowledging that the EU is in a “very complicated situation”.

If either country asks for a vote on this matter during this Council, Zacarias​​​​​​ ​said she didn’t know whether “the Council has or not a majority to reverse this situation”.

“Unanimity will certainly not be there to apply some sanction, that will not happen, because Poland supports Hungary and Hungary supports Poland. So we will never have unanimity”, she emphasised.

Still, Zacarias said the Portuguese presidency of the EU would “continue the debate and continue to press on this mechanism” of the rule of law in the bloc.

The European Commission activated the procedure known as Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, against Poland in 2017. The procedure provides for sanctions on member states if there is a clear risk of a serious breach of European values. The European Parliament did the same against Hungary in 2018.

In an interview with Lusa on 2 February, EU Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said he expected some progress during the Portuguese presidency in the cases of Poland and Hungary.

He said that the European Commission would “use all tools” in the procedure.

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