“The rule of law must be the condition for granting funds,” the European Commission insisted only weeks ago. In the days around the European Council, many countries seemed intransigent. To this day.
In days-long budget negotiations, European leaders have already taken a contested decision on a mechanism to sanction countries such as Hungary and Poland – but potentially others in Eastern Europe – suspected of violating the rule of law and the rule of law. disruption of access to EU budget and funds.
“Victor Orban is celebrating. Other Eastern Europeans will follow,” Danish journalist Svening Dalgaard wrote on Twitter. “The rule of law in the EU is over.” Indeed, Orbán presented himself as the big winner: he said shortly after the budget agreement was announced that the credit went entirely to Warsaw.
Orbán and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki, who praised each other after the 90-hour Council, are now trying to present themselves as key players on the pitch. What did the EU actually decide, which they interpreted in their favor, and why did an ambiguous sentence divide the political elite in Budapest and Warsaw into two camps?
General phrases, possibility for veto
“The European Council emphasizes the importance of protecting the EU’s financial interests,” the meeting concluded, in which the phrase “rule of law” was mentioned twice. “The European Council emphasizes the importance of respecting the rule of law. On this basis, a conditionality regime is introduced to protect the budget … The Commission will propose measures to be implemented by the Council by qualified majority in the event of a breach. The Council will react quickly . ”
The latter means that, in practice, national governments will vote twice – once by qualified majority, and once more at European Council (leaders) level, where the procedure, if not explicitly mentioned, requires unanimity.
The procedural loophole left in the conclusions calls into question the application of the mechanism, as any state supporting the party concerned could veto it.
That is why many commentators have already said that the idea of a “money versus legality” mechanism is diluted. The Christian Democrats in Germany and its Bavarian cousin, the Christian Social Union, said it would “very carefully” compromise on the rule of law mechanism, because if the proper use of funds and the success of the fight against corruption are not guaranteed, “the EU as a community of values to exist.”
The other point of view and confusion
There is another hypothesis. According to Daniel Hegedusz of the German Marshall Fund, the rule of law is being introduced, but the decision “leaves the door open even for a firm and effective mechanism” and “effectively bypasses the Hungarian and Polish vetoes”.
Supporters believe that with the threat posed by Orban and Moravecki to block the budget deal, there is no other way to reach a compromise after four and a half days of bilateral and multilateral meetings.
Politico notes that politicians, journalists and commentators in Poland have split into two camps this morning: some say the rule of law mechanism is blocked by Poland and Hungary, others say it is not.
The confusion introduces the ambiguous phrase: “The European Council will revert rapidly to the matter.” It seems unclear what the issue is. Official Warsaw claims that this phrase means that if the Commission wants to restrict a country’s access to EU funds, after the decision of the EU Council (configuration of EU ministers) and a decision by a qualified majority, the decision is returned to the European Council, where wants unanimity among leaders.
For the Polish opposition, a qualified majority is sufficient according to the text described in the conclusions.