Poland, Hungary PMs meet over EU budget veto strategy

International
Mateusz Morawiecki, Viktor Orban

FILE – In this Friday, Sept. 11, 2020 file photo, Viktor Orban, right, Prime Minister of Hungary and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attend a news conference following talks with his counterparts from central Europe’s Visegrad Group in Lublin, Poland. Poland and Hungary have vetoed the European Union’s next seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery plan over a new mechanism that links EU funding to the rule of law. The 27-nation bloc’s 1.8 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion) budget for 2021-2027 was agreed upon last week after tough negotiations. The budget is supposed to take effect on Jan. 1. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland and Hungary have declared openness to new proposals from the European Union regarding the bloc’s next budget and major coronavirus pandemic aid package that they are threatening to veto because it draws a link between bloc funding and members’ adherence to democratic standards.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hosted Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban late Monday for around 90 minutes of talks on their protest strategy for the Dec. 10-11 EU summit and later European Council meeting that should approve the bloc’s urgently needed aid package and its 2021-2027 budget, totaling 1.8 trillion euros ($2.1 trillion).

Following the meeting, Morawiecki’s spokesman said that the two governments are “open to new proposals” from the EU presidency that is currently held by Germany.

“We wish to stress that the deal on the budget must be in line with the (EU founding) treaties” and with the agreement that the leaders reached on in July, spokesman Piotr Mueller said.

Poland and Hungary have been in conflict with the EU for years over their democracy records and fear they may be targeted by the new mechanism attached to the financial package that allows funds to be withheld from any of the EU’s 27 members that fall short of the bloc’s standards.

The two leaders argue that the conditionality of disbursement of funds goes against the EU treaties.

It was the two leaders’ second meeting on the subject in less than a week.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that for her, the rule of law is “the foundation of the European project” and that finding consensus in the summit won’t be easy.

“We know that we absolutely want to have a result. We also know how difficult that is if all 27 member states can’t agree on that result,” Merkel told a virtual gathering of members of parliaments’ European affairs committees.

She said it was up to politicians to come up with results “with which all can live.” But she warned that it won’t work without compromise “from all sides.”

Holding the EU’s rotating presidency, Germany is tasked with finding a compromise that will pave the way for January’s scheduled implementation of the financial package.

Hoping to mollify the EU’s stance, Morawiecki recently vowed full transparency of the EU funds spending procedures in Poland.

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Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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