Days after Hungary and Poland vetoed a key decision on the European Union’s budget and recovery plan, EU officials are now scrambling to thrash out a strategy on how they can proceed.
On Monday, the two countries withheld support for a key decision on how to fund the shared 2021-2027 EU spending plan due to a separate dispute over what they see as interference in their domestic rule-of-law affairs by EU officials and the other 25 member states.
The move will most likely significantly delay the adoption of the EU’s 1.8-trillion-euro (2.1-trillion-dollar) plan, and EU officials on Wednesday remained puzzled over how to solve the deadlock.
“It is difficult to understand,” a senior EU diplomat said. “I think we should wait for the two member states to explain how they want to proceed before we enter into all kinds of options.”
Both countries are outraged by a new mechanism tying access to funds from the budget to compliance with the bloc’s basic democratic standards – something all EU leaders had in principle agreed to in July.
In an impassioned speech in the Polish parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended his country’s decision.
Morawiecki vehemently criticized what he said was “European oligarchy” and “European bureaucrats” trying to punish weaker EU member states based on a set of arbitrary criteria.
Such an EU “has no future ahead of it,” the Polish premier said. Morawiecki reiterated the claim that the proposed rule-of-law conditionality mechanism circumvents EU treaties.
“The rule of law and its breaches have become a propaganda truncheon; we reject such an approach,” Morawiecki said.
EU leaders are officially scheduled to discuss the coronavirus pandemic in a video call on Thursday, but they are also likely going to attempt to tackle Warsaw and Budapest’s resistance – although with no great expectations, according to the diplomat. “I don’t think tomorrow is the right moment to solve something,” the diplomat said.
Another EU official echoed the pessimistic sentiments on Wednesday.
“This is not a small problem,” the official said. “I don’t think it is realistic to find a solution tomorrow.”