Poland and Hungary hold hostage the EU’s budget package

THE FACT

This week a new hot topic made its way in the news between the evolving numbers of the current second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequences of the recent US elections: on Monday 16th Nov. during the meeting of the Council of Ministers Polonia and Hungary put their veto on the EU’s budget to manifest their opposition to the Rule of Law conditionality for the future funding transfers from to the EU to its MS. This veto vote de facto holds hostage the EU’s budget since the unanimity is necessary for it to be approved. The two States reconfirmed their position during the brief video conference on Thursday 19th Nov. among the EU leaders, after that also Slovenia expressed its disagreement with the conditionality on the Rule of Law (even if it did not put its veto). The event becomes even more relevant since the EU’s budget includes the Recovery Fund, which can make the difference in the management of the Covid-19 crisis in many States of the Union, including Hungary and Poland themselves.

But let’s take a few steps back to understand better what happened and analyse the reasons behind this move by the two Eastern European Countries.

THE EU’S BUDGET

Before the summer break, in July, European leaders reached an agreement on the EU’s budget for the next seven years: €1.8 trillion is the amount the EU can spend over the period 2021-2027. This amount comprehends €750 billion for the Coronavirus Recovery Fund, known as the Next Generation EU, and the remaining €1.074 trillion represents the EU Multi-annual Financial Framework, the actual EU’s long-term budget.

THE RULE OF LAW CONDITIONALITY, POLAND AND HUNGARY POSITIONS VS EU

On Mon. 16th Nov. the EU Council and Parliament with the necessary qualified majority agreed to make future funding transfers from the EU to its MSs conditional upon the respect of the Rule of Law in the MSs themselves, meaning on the adherence to democratic values, human rights and independence of the judiciary systems in each MSs (and both the two Eastern European Countries have often be accused and are investigated by the European Commission in these regards).

At this point, Poland and Hungary, not being able to stop the communitarian decision on the Rule of Law conditionality, which it’s seen by the two Countries as an unfair ideological move targeted against them by Bruxelles mining their sovereignty, put their veto on the EU’s budget. Poland and Hungary did so not to express their disagreement on the EU’s budget deal itself agreed in July - as stated by Balazs Hidveghi, a Hungarian MEP from the ruling Fidesz party - but just to manifest their opposition to the Rule of Law conditionality not having other means to do so. According to the Hungarian MEP the Rule of Law concept is not clearly defined and he says “it’s an ideological sort of subjective matter that the one side of the arena has been misusing, but then that is not to be linked to any functioning of the EU”.

However, we must notice that opposition politicians in Hungary are keen to point out that this view is not shared by everyone in the Country, on the contrary Katalin Cseh, another Hungarian MEP from the Momentum Movement, reports that “over 70 percent of Hungarians support the Rule of Law conditionality”. In fact, Hungarians businesses and local authorities