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Poland, Hungary face calls to drop EU budget veto

December 8, 2020

Poland and Hungary are coming under increasing pressure to unlock EU budget funds they have blocked with a veto. Former Polish presidents have urged the government of their country to "stop blackmailing" other EU states.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (l) and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (l) and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki stand united on the budget vetoImage: Czarek Sokolowski/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Poland and Hungary faced more calls on Tuesday to drop their veto of the European Union's budget, with time short before the current budget runs out at the end of the year.

Three former Polish presidents have joined the chorus of those urging the release of the funds, which include a massive stimulus package to counteract the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter cited by the AFP news agency, Lech Walesa, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Bronislaw Komorowski said such a veto would be justified only if the budget were unfair to Poland. However, as the Polish government had itself helped negotiate it, that was not the case, they wrote.

"That is why we call on the Polish president, prime minister and the government to stop blackmailing the other EU members with a veto of the budget," the letter said.

Polen Danzig | Politiker | Lech Walesa
Lech Walesa, for many Poles a hero for his efforts to fight communism, joined the ex-presidents' appealImage: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Spat over rule of law

Warsaw and Budapest have blocked the €1.1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) budget and accompanying €750 billion stimulus fund because they object to making the funds conditional on respect for the rule of law and democratic standards. Both countries are under investigation for running afoul of EU rules by undermining the independence of the judiciary and the freedom of the press.

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Balszczak on Tuesday reiterated his country's position, telling a public broadcaster that "the conditionality mechanism in its present shape is unacceptable for Poland."

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has also confirmed that Budapest will stand shoulder to shoulder with Poland. After meeting his Polish counterpart in Brussels on Monday, he said in a Facebook video that "we have affirmed that we stand by each other."

 Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto
Szijjarto has reaffirmed Hungary's determination to stick by its vetoImage: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

Looking for another solution

The EU appears likely to seek an alternative way of releasing the funds if Poland and Hungary do not come round. A senior EU diplomat said the 25 other member states would be prepared to start a process excluding the two central European states, with a videoconference of European affairs ministers scheduled for Tuesday.

German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth said that the budget and stimulus fund should be made accessible without delay.

"It would be irresponsible to further delay essential support to our citizens. We need to rapidly unlock the financial support that is so critical for many member states," he said.

tj/dr (Reuters, AFP, dpa)