European Union leaders made no progress on Thursday in resolving a dispute to unlock a budget of 1.8 trillion euros ($ 2.1 trillion) and the recovery pandemic maintained by Poland and Hungary’s rejection of a link between the rule of law and budget payments.
Instead, they gladly handed over the work to veteran Chancellor Angela Merkel from Germany and it is likely to push for a new summit next month, just weeks before the new 7-year budget is due to take effect on 1 January.
Merkel said there was a lot of work left to unite the vetoing conflicting couple with the rest of the bloc who are eager to start spending themselves out of the worst economic downturn in the bloc’s history.
“We have an obligation to try to find a way,” Merkel said, but added that even though time is pressing, “we are still very much in the beginning.”
During a carefully choreographed 20-minute session at the beginning of their video conference, the leaders from the opposite sides kept close to their positions but did not exacerbate the existing tensions.
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who chaired the meeting, acknowledged that breaking the deadlock would be a high order and added that he would join Merkel in seeking solutions with all parties involved before next month’s EU summit.
“The magic of the European Union is its ability to find solutions even when it is thought impossible,” said Michel.
EU leaders circumvent the budget debate and hold key negotiations with management
The deal for the budget and recovery fund looked set to take effect in January – until Hungary and Poland vetoed it this week. They opposed a new “rule of law mechanism” that would allow the bloc to deny funds to countries that violate democratic norms – something that both Poland and Hungary have been accused of doing.
The dispute risks delaying the expansion of funds that are urgently needed to cope with the economic effects of a new wave of coronavirus infections that risk driving the region into another recession.
Angela Merkel on blocked EU budget negotiations
“It is in everyone’s interest that we move forward quickly with this. People’s jobs depend on this, said Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission. “Our economic recovery is due to this. All the Member States are asking for is to respect the treaties they have signed and ratified. That’s all.”
Poland and Hungary say they are vetoing the 2021-2027 budget and the massive aid plan because they believe the “rule of law” will be used as an ideological weapon to punish them. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa supports the two countries’ objections.
The Polish parliament adopted a resolution on Thursday in support of the government’s plan to veto the EU budget if it includes the rule of law. The resolution was largely symbolic, the stated purpose of which was to strengthen the position of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
The resolution calls it unacceptable and inconsistent with the EU Treaty to apply “different standards” to different members.
In September, the EU Executive Commission said in its first report on compliance with the rule of law that democratic standards face major challenges in Hungary and Poland and noted threats to the judiciary, frameworks against corruption and media freedom. The EU has launched legal proceedings against the two countries over what they consider to be systemic threats to the rule of law.
In France, European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune warned that if Poland and Hungary stick to their positions, all other member states could try to find a way forward without the couple.
“As a last resort, we would look at ways to move forward without the blocking countries, because Europe cannot be held hostage by a certain number of governments that do not want to move forward,” Beaune said.
However, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that leaving two member states and “doing something with 24, 25 nations would be the nuclear option but that’s not part of the discussion now. »
If leaders do not break the deadlock before the end of the year, the bloc will continue to spend but operate on limited resources, with a maximum of one twelfth of the budget for the previous financial year to be spent each month. Many projects for Poland and Hungary could be held.