European Union leaders have sealed a deal on a massive long-term budget and coronavirus recovery program, EU Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday after overcoming objections from Hungary and from Poland over a decision to tie the use of bloc funds to the maintenance of the rule of law.
The seven-year budget and the 1.82 trillion euro ($ 2.21 trillion) stimulus package are considered vital for many European countries whose economies have been devastated by the virus. Poland and Hungary agreed to the deal in July, but subsequently vetoed it, fearing the new mechanism could target them for violations of European democratic standards.
“We can now start implementation and rebuild our economies. Our historic recovery program will advance our green and digital transitions, ”Michel said in a tweet at a European summit he chaired in Brussels.
No details of the deal were immediately available.
The breakthrough came just days after it emerged that all 25 European partners from Poland and Hungary could go it alone and create a new coronavirus recovery program without them.
Ahead of the two-day summit, diplomats and EU officials said the solution would come in the form of a statement that the rule of law mechanism would not be used against any country without a decision of the utmost. high court of the EU, the European Court of Justice, first of all. This process could take a year.
We can now start implementation and rebuild our economies
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned that this could be our case now, you tomorrow.
“We must avoid any arbitrary and politically motivated decision,” he said. “Today we fear being attacked by unjustifiably, but of course in the future any country.”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that all parties were fighting for “a victory of common sense”.
“It is evident that when our nations and so many millions of people are in need because of pandemic and its economic consequences, we must behave reasonably, ”said Orban, whose nationalist government, like that of Poland, has been accused of undermining judicial independence and media freedoms.
But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he still had questions about the compromise, like his neighbors in Belgium and Luxembourg. He had planned to seek legal advice, particularly on whether the compromise would violate the agreement previously reached between EU member countries and the European Parliament.
Rutte said he also wanted to be sure that any court ruling “can retroactively establish that violations have taken place.”
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said it was normal for Hungary and Poland to want judicial review.
“But nothing should change in the rules. Nothing. If we start to dilute, or say that we don’t care about values or justice; no. If we want the rule of law, we have to have a mechanism that works, ”said Bettel.
Daniel Freund, the Greens group’s rule of law negotiator in the European Parliament, warned that the compromise discussed would put the system “on hold for 1 to 2 years”.
“The rule of law in Europe is in crisis,” he said, adding that EU members should not pressure the European Commission to avoid applying “existing laws then. that judicial independence is abolished in Poland or that billions of European funds end up with Orban’s family and friends. “
Had leaders not passed the budget for 2021-27 by year-end, the bloc would have been forced to operate with limited resources, with a maximum of one-twelfth of the previous year’s budget to spend each. month.
Many projects for Poland and Hungary – which are already the subject of an official EU investigation for their potential rule of law violations – have reportedly been delayed.