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Germany remains optimistic after EU budget veto

November 17, 2020

The German foreign minister says he is confident a solution can be found after Poland and Hungary vetoed the EU budget. The budget also includes a shorter-term coronavirus relief fund, adding more urgency to the talks.

Heiko Maas without glasses
Image: Olivier Hoslet/AFP/Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Tuesday voiced confidence that a "quick solution" could be found after Hungary and Poland triggered a political crisis in the European Union by blocking approval of the bloc's long-term budget and the accompanying coronavirus rescue package.

"We will be working in the coming hours and days with all parties concerned ... to find a solution and I am confident there will be one," Maas said, adding that Germany, as current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, was partly responsible for resolving the problem.

Hungary and Poland's exercise of their veto right came in protest at a recently introduced clause tying access to EU funds to compliance with the bloc's basic democratic standards. Both have fallen foul of those standards in recent years, at least in Brussels' eyes, with the bloc voicing concern about a lack of judicial independence in the two nations, among other things.

Read more: EU slams Hungary and Poland over democratic standards

Hungary: Culture and education under attack

Urgently required funds

Their move comes at a critical moment, as the altogether €1.8-trillion ($2.1 trillion) seven-year budget is urgently needed amid the coronavirus pandemic. The funds include a more immediate coronavirus rescue package of €750 billion, which was attached to the longer-term budget worth just over €1 trillion.

"There is so much money involved that so many countries in the European Union need and are waiting for that we not only need a solution but we need it quickly," Maas said. "I am sure we will be able to do that."

Read more: ECJ rules against Hungary's higher education law

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban
Viktor Orban warned of his intent to veto the budgetImage: picture-alliance/dpa/AFP Pool/J. Thys

Time for solidarity

Another German official, the minister of state for Europe, Michael Roth, urged Poland and Hungary to drop their vetoes.

"This is not the time for vetoes, but for acting swiftly and in the spirit of solidarity," Roth said on Tuesday. "Our people would pay a very high price for a blockade."

Monday's veto was not unexpected, as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had previously written to leading EU figures saying he would block the budget.

His government has faced criticism from the EU for media suppression, pressurizing non-governmental organizations promoting civil liberties and allegedly misusing EU funds to benefit political allies.

The money that has been blocked also includes billions in support for Hungary and Poland, both of which are net recipients of EU funds, unlike the bloc's wealthier members. 

tj/msh (dpa, AP, AFP)