Mon, 25 Jan 2021

The European Union's next budget and its massive pandemic relief fund cannot come into force without Hungary's approval and Budapest cannot accept it in its proposed form, which ties the disbursal to observing the rule of law in member countries, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff has said.

Poland and Hungary are blocking about 1.8 trillion euros ($2.2 trillion) worth of EU funds, including hundreds of billions due to be disbursed soon to help pull the 27-country bloc out of a double-dip recession caused by a second surge in coronavirus infections.

Both countries are under EU investigation for undermining the independence of the judiciary, media, and nongovernmental organizations, and risk losing access to tens of billions of euros because of the newly introduced rule-of-law clause.

'There will not be an agreement' if the present EU proposal linking access to money to a clause on respecting the rule of law is maintained, Gergely Gulyas said on December 3.

'In its present form we cannot accept the EU budget, and every member state has the right of veto,' Gulyas told a weekly government briefing.

However, Gulyas said that Hungary was still open to further negotiations.

In a related development, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, the foreign minister of fellow EU member Spain, warned Poland and Hungary that they should behave responsibly and reach an agreement on the EU budget and recovery fund.

'Spain wants Poland, Hungary to behave responsibly on EU rescue funds,' Gonzalez Laya told Bloomberg TV on December 3, adding that both countries had a responsibility toward their own citizens and firms that need the recovery money.

Orban and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, signed a joint declaration last month pledging to support each other in blocking the EU's next budget and pandemic relief fund because of the proposed rule-of-law mechanism.

Orban and Morawiecki said after signing the declaration in Budapest on November 26 that the mechanism risked derailing the bloc.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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