Prime ministers Morawiecki (left) and Viktor Orbán – Photo: MTI

Morawiecki: Rule of law mechanism could lead to EU disintegration

Orbán: Hungary won’t accept proposal deemed unacceptable by Poland

Hungary will not accept any proposal on the European Union's next multi-year budget and post-pandemic recovery fund that Poland deems unacceptable, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a press statement after talks with his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki. Linking the political debate concerning the rule of law and the economic issue of managing the coronavirus crisis was "irresponsible", Orbán said in his joint press statement with Morawiecki, arguing that a crisis required swift economic decision-making.

Member states have failed to reach a consensus on how to harmonise the issue of the next budget, crisis management and draft legislation aimed at protecting the bloc’s financial interests since a European Council summit in July, Orbán said.

Also, a proposal to link the financial issue of crisis management with the political issue of the rule of law is still on the agenda, he added.

This proposal, however, is “unacceptable” to Hungary in its current form, Orbán said.

Citing a declaration he issued jointly with Morawiecki, Orbán said Hungary would refuse to accept any proposal that is deemed unacceptable by Poland.

“So we will spend the coming months . fighting together,” he said.

Orbán said the more powerful member states “trying to put pressure on Hungary” and their media were giving the impression that Hungary was wrong to exercise its veto right. The prime minister said the veto was a legitimate tool guaranteed by the bloc’s founding treaty which a member state could exercise if it believes a given decision hurts its interests.

Orbán said he not only had a right under European law, but also a “patriotic duty”, to thwart any decision that would hurt the interests of the Hungarian people.

He said the proposal on the table was “not the rule of law but rule of majority”.

“And given that Hungary has disagreements with other member states on a range of fundamental issues like migration, the issue of national sovereignty and gender, I can’t risk having positions forced on Hungary that the Hungarian people would disapprove of,” the prime minister said.

Orbán also said journalists, lawyers and politicians who believed this was a financial matter were wrong. “This debate can’t be settled with money.”

He argued that this was because the EU wanted to finance its post-pandemic recovery fund by borrowing. The prime minister said the idea of raising joint debt was risky because if a country failed to pay back its debt, it would end up having to be paid back in part by Hungarians.

Hungary would suffer no financial loss if the EU failed to set up a recovery fund, Orbán said, arguing that the fund was meant to help countries whose public debt exceed their gross domestic product. “Ours is way below this level,” he added.

Managing the crisis should not require drafting rule-of-law regulations, Orbán said, adding that the only reason it was on the agenda was because the European Parliament “and certain member states” had wanted to “settle both issues at once”.

The next EU budget, on the other hand, cannot legally be approved without Hungary and Poland’s support, he noted. “It is with this in mind that we will be conducting our future negotiations,” he said.

Morawiecki: Legislation must not contravene the EU treaties

There is a danger that the European Union’s “rule-of-law mechanism, motivated by completely new, arbitrary political decisions” could lead to the bloc’s disintegration, Poland’s prime minister said.

Mateusz Morawiecki, speaking at a joint press conference with Viktor Orbán, said that the mechanism’s introduction would be “extremely dangerous” for the EU as a whole, arguing that legislation must not contravene the EU treaties.

Morawiecki noted the veto was written into the EU treaties as a way of safeguarding the interests of member states. Hungary and Poland will resort to that option unless the proposed mechanism is changed, he said, insisting that the current proposal to make funding contingent on upholding certain rule-of-law criteria was “unacceptable”.

Applying the veto would help to protect the sovereignty of the two countries as well as the spirit of the EU treaties, the Polish PM added.

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