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Poland threatens to veto EU 2021-2027 budget over rule of law condition

FILE PHOTO: Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki looks on as other leaders speak on the second day of a European Union summit at the European Council Building in Brussels, Belgium October 2, 2020. Aris Oikonomou/Pool via REUTERS reuters_tickers
This content was published on November 12, 2020 - 18:57

By Jan Strupczewski

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has sent a letter to European Union institutions threatening to veto the 27-nation bloc's 2021-2027 budget if access to EU funds is made conditional on governments respecting the rule of law.

The letter, similar to one sent earlier by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, was sent to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the chairman of EU leaders Charles Michel and the German presidency of the EU.

A Commission spokesman confirmed receipt of the letter and the gist of its contents.

Both Poland and Hungary are under EU investigation for undermining the independence of courts, media and non-governmental organisations.

With the link between money and respect for the rule of law in place, after long negotiations between the European Parliament and the German EU presidency, both countries run the risk of losing billions of euros in EU funding.

The conditionality was a key concern for the European Parliament and several north European countries such as the Netherlands, which had wanted the conditions to be even stricter.

Poland and Hungary have the power to veto the long-term budget and prevent any member state getting EU funding.

But this would also harm both countries, which are big net beneficiaries of the budget where many supporters of the ruling nationalist parties depend heavily on direct EU subsidies.

"Without sufficient guarantees that Member States' treaty rights will be respected, we do not see the possibility of ratifying the budget in the Polish parliament," Morawiecki wrote in the letter, according to one official.

Some officials said, however, that the letter had been sent before a meeting of ambassadors of EU countries in Brussels on Wednesday, at which the Polish ambassador said Warsaw was still considering the matter.

The regulation linking EU payouts to respect for the rule of law to is likely to be voted on by ambassadors of EU countries next week, and can be passed by a so-called qualified majority.

But the budget and the attendant enabling law -- the Own Resources Decision -- do require unanimity. Both are likely to be voted on in the next few weeks, perhaps even next week.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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