EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has asked Poland and Hungary to abandon the blockade of the multi-billion Corona economic aid and the long-term EU budget. In case of doubt, the countries should rather go to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and have the rule of law mechanism criticized by them put through its paces, she said in the European Parliament on Wednesday. Poland sharply rejected the proposal.
Von der Leyen said that the ECJ is the place where one usually resolves differences of opinion about legal texts. The Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro contradicted her. The EU treaties would clearly regulate that the ECJ had no competence in this case, he said in Warsaw on Wednesday. The proposal of the EU Commission President is therefore “demagogic”. He had the impression that von der Leyen was acting with “bad intent”.
On Monday last week, Poland and Hungary vetoed a new procedure to penalize violations of the rule of law, preventing the political decision-making process for the EU financial package from continuing as planned. In addition to the planned Corona reconstruction aid of up to 750 billion euros, the long-term EU budget is also affected. For the next seven years it comprises funds amounting to almost 1.1 billion euros and finances, for example, grants for education and research programs.
The Corona economic aid is very important, especially for countries like Italy and Spain. With this in mind, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban brought up the idea of not setting the new rule of law in motion until later. “The countries in need want money quickly – let’s give the money,” said the right-wing politician of the weekly newspaper “Die Zeit”.
Other countries would want rule of law rules that could be discussed, he continued. “We have to do the first thing immediately, the second thing is less of a hurry.” The rule of law could “wait a few months”.
At the same time, Orban tried to downplay the effectiveness of his veto against the budget decisions. He described the rule of law mechanism as a “creeping” change in the EU treaties. But if the current EU presidency, Germany, really wants him, he will come. “My little hand grenade is not enough,” said Orban, referring to the Hungarian veto. Orban will meet the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Budapest on Thursday to coordinate the negotiating positions.
Despite the dispute, EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn was confident that, according to EU tradition, an agreement could be reached “at the last minute”. At a conference of the EconPol research network, Hahn indicated a compromise, but no changes to the agreement between EU countries and the EU Parliament. Arbitrariness is excluded by an objective procedure in the assessment of possible violations.
MEP Othmar Karas said in an online press conference to journalists on Wednesday that the “mini trumps” in Poland and Hungary should not prevent investments. The Council of EU member states must give a clear rejection of “blackmail attempts”. This sounds demanding, but is “easy” – you just have to implement what has already been decided.
According to EU Commissioner Hahn, the reconstruction plan could be adopted at the plenary session of the EU Parliament in the week of December 14th and thus come into force in January. If the EU countries quickly ratified the new own funds for the EU, borrowing for the construction fund on the capital market could begin at the end of the second quarter of 2021. The EU funds should not only be used to fill gaps or replace national funds. The aim is to create investments, said Hahn.