By Stefan J. Bos
Hungary's and Poland's leaders are furious over the European Union's efforts to link funds' allocation to respect for the rule of law. EU critics have singled out both countries for their perceived efforts to limit the media's independence and the judiciary and their alleged trampling on human rights.
The dispute has seen Poland and Hungary block 1.8 trillion euros (more than $2.1 trillion) worth of EU funds. That includes hundreds of billions in coronavirus relief to be disbursed to those suffering most under the pandemic's weight.
Heard through an interpreter in Budapest, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán defended their decision to veto the new EU budget. "We are going to unify our arguments and join forces in this debate," he told reporters. "Hungary will not accept such a proposal, which is unacceptable for Poland. What is on the table under the name of the rule of law is not the rule of law but rather the rule of the majority," he added.
Orbán said his nation debated many issues with other EU member states, "regarding migration, national sovereignty, and gender." Therefore, "I can't put Hungary at risk of being restrained by a simple majority on such issues that Hungarians cannot accept," he stressed.
Standing next to him was Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who shares Hungary's concerns. "We are standing in front of a new challenge, in front of a totally new mechanism," the Polish leader explained. "Due to its political implementation, which is motivated by political decisions, and could even lead to the EU's disintegration."
At odds with Merkel
On Friday, the Polish prime minister also confirmed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Poland was ready to veto the new European Union funding.
In a statement on social media, he said a veto is necessary as Brussels must first a solution that, in his words, "is good for the EU as a whole, not just for some of its members.”
Hungary and Poland were once seen as an example of democratic changes following the collapse of Communism. But in recent years, they have been criticized for perceived autocratic tendencies and anti-migration policies.
Both governments have denied wrongdoing saying the EU should not become an empire but respect nation-states' sovereign will.