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Poland and Hungary block EU budget and warn dispute could break union


Poland has warned that an escalating funding crisis could lead to "EU disintegration" after partnering with ally Hungary to block the coronavirus bailout budget that is "blackmailing countries into accepting migrants".

On Monday, the two countries blocked the EU budget 2021-2027 and the recovery plan worth 1.85 trillion euros (1.65 trillion pounds sterling), as access to the funds would be made contingent on compliance with the rule of law.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said a "European oligarchy" was trying to harass weaker EU members, while his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban called the plan "blackmail" against member states opposed to immigration.

Poland is already in an EU investigation for its efforts to curtail the independence of the judiciary, as is Hungary for an erosion of democratic norms like freedom of the press under Orban's rule.

On Wednesday, Morawiecki warned that new financing conditions could ultimately "lead to the disintegration of the EU".

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has warned that the dispute over the coronavirus bailout package and the EU budget for 2021-2027 could lead to "EU disintegration" after Poland and Hungary teamed up to freeze the budget, and claims that he had blackmailed the countries into accepting migrants

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had previously accused the European Union of trying to "blackmail" member states that had not followed their immigration line.

Orban, whose nationalist government is under investigation for undermining the independence of the Hungarian courts, media and non-governmental organizations, linked his veto to his continued opposition to mass immigration to the EU.

"Once this proposal is adopted, there will be no more barriers to tying member states' share of common funds to support migration and to blackmailing countries that oppose migration with funds," Orban said in a statement the state news agency MTI.

Orban's nationalist government is under investigation by the EU for undermining the independence of the Hungarian courts, media and non-governmental organizations. Like Poland, Hungary is against it

Orban's nationalist government is under investigation by the EU for undermining the independence of the Hungarian courts, media and non-governmental organizations. Like Poland, Hungary is against it

The opposition of Hungary and Poland to the rule of law in Brussels will be high on the agenda of the EU summit on Thursday, suspending efforts to fight the coronavirus epidemic.

The EU member states had planned to share the lessons learned in the first year of the pandemic and to discuss a strategy to prevent a third wave of infections in the first few months of 2021.

Leaders were also expected to measure the temperature of post-Brexit trade talks, with time running out fast to strike a deal with the UK before exiting the single market on Jan. 1.

But this week Warsaw and Budapest – now with Slovenia's support – blocked the passage of the € 1.8 trillion block post-virus combined recovery plan and long-term budget.

The nationalist governments accuse their EU partners of taking power by tying the disbursement of EU funds to the respect of the Brussels view of the rule of law and European values.

The video conference, slated to begin at 6 p.m. (1700 GMT), is now dominated by efforts to appease it – or bypass it. "It will be the elephant in the room," said a senior European diplomat.

Poland is already in an EU investigation for its efforts to curtail the independence of the judiciary, as is Hungary for an erosion of democratic norms like freedom of the press under Orban's rule. Pictured: Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban together in September

Poland is already in an EU investigation for its efforts to curtail the independence of the judiciary, as is Hungary for an erosion of democratic norms like freedom of the press under Orban's rule. Pictured: Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban together in September

Orban combined his veto with his continued opposition to mass immigration into the EU. Pictured: Two boats carrying migrants are greeted by other migrants on their arrival in the port of Arguineguin on the island of Gran Canaria in southwest Spain on November 17th

Orban combined his veto with his continued opposition to mass immigration into the EU. Pictured: Two boats carrying migrants are greeted by other migrants on their arrival in the port of Arguineguin on the island of Gran Canaria in southwest Spain on November 17th

The plan, strongly defended by the European Parliament and several member states, including France and the Netherlands, to tie EU funds to the rule of law, could be adopted with a qualified majority of members.

However, as part of the EU process, members must unanimously support a plan that will allow the EU to raise funds to fund its € 750 billion (£ 670 billion) recovery plan and the € 670 billion subsequent budget from 2021 to 2027 trillion .

The rest of the bloc had hoped the matter would be settled in July after a four-day, overnight summit worked out an apparent budget compromise that was later changed in talks with the European Parliament.

Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of the year, has been working behind the scenes to defuse the dispute, and some diplomats believe Orban and Morawiecki could be persuaded to accept guarantees of fair treatment.

French Minister for European Affairs, Clement Beaune, said EU bodies are looking at possible "technical clarifications".

But both France and the Netherlands have invoked what many consider to be implausible of getting around the congestion by pushing an intergovernmental recovery plan without the leftovers.

"We will examine whether it is necessary as a last resort to move forward without the blocking countries," said Beaune.

According to the WHO, 1.84 million cases of coronavirus were recorded in the past week, a decrease of ten percent from the previous seven days

According to the WHO, 1.84 million cases of coronavirus were recorded in the past week, a decrease of ten percent from the previous seven days

In Brussels, a high-level European source warned that this was premature and technically complex, but confirmed that it was "on the table".

There is anger in Brussels that governments receiving large net contributions from Europe are spending so much time and political capital opposing reform efforts.

"When you look at Poland and Hungary's positions on migration, the climate, the rule of law and the budget, there are many issues that they have difficulty dealing with," said a diplomat.

"Let's ask them what they want from this union."

No breakthrough is expected on Thursday. The three-hour meeting will be "an opportunity to exchange views" but "the lack of physical contact is a disadvantage" and prohibits crucial side meetings, a European source said.

"The meeting will exacerbate frustrations and fears. We must expect a few days of drama and darkness."

(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) Nachrichten (t) Coronavirus (t) Immigration (t) Brexit (t) European Union