Poland expects concessions after it vetoed EU budget

European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium

Poland expects Brussels to offer it new proposals to find a way out of stalemate after the country joined Hungary in vetoing the European Union’s 1.8 trillion euro budget, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Hungary and Poland blocked the adoption of the 2021-2027 budget and recovery fund at a meeting of ambassadors of EU nations on Monday, over a clause making access to money conditional on respect for the rule of law.

The nationalist governments in Budapest and Warsaw oppose linking EU money and respect for the rule of law as they face a formal EU investigation over undermining the independence of courts, media and non-government bodies.

“We are awaiting new proposals that will be coherent with EU treaties and secondly, will be in line with the conclusions of the European Council (decisions) from July, when the EU budget was agreed,” Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller told state radio.

Both countries risk losing access to tens of billions of euros in EU funds if the link, introduced by EU leaders in July and strengthened by the European Parliament, remains.

Quoting a person close to the government in Warsaw, the daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna said Poland was aware it would be impossible to scrap the link, but would welcome scenarios to dilute the mechanism linking funding to the adherence.

One of the Polish proposals assumes the European Commission would require unanimity if it wanted to block payments to a member country.

Since Hungary has joined Poland in its fight with Brussels – in the scenario Warsaw envisages – this would in practice make it impossible to activate the link between EU payments and adherence to rule of law.

The Polish-Hungarian veto means money for economic recovery for all EU countries from the recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be delayed. It was originally planned to start flowing from mid-2021.

European Union members are to discuss further steps on Thursday. Poland pictured the Monday veto as the start of a debate aimed at reaching a compromise.

“Take it easy, this is just a level of ambassadors’ discussions, the most important debate is still ahead of us,” Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek told state TV.

“Poland wants the long-term pact to be adopted as soon as possible … but this cannot be done at the expense of the sovereignty of the member states.”

A survey conducted by the United Surveys organisation showed 57% of Poles support the veto, while 20% are against blocking the EU budget.

At the same time, Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party is supported by 30% of voters, another poll shows.

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