EU: Expert discusses ‘long term challenge’ of rule of law
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MEPs are leading the campaign calling for the European Commission to block any future EU handouts to Warsaw and Budapest unless they clean up their act. It comes as eurocrats publish their annual report into the state of rule of law across the bloc. Poland and Hungary’s behaviour sparked serious warnings over deteriorating judicial independence and weak battles against top-level corruption.
The two rogue states are still yet to have their plans signed-off in order to access their cut of the EU’s £691billion coronavirus recovery fund.
Ahead of the publication of the report, German MEP Daniel Freund warned taxpayers’ money was being flagrantly abused by Warsaw and Budapest.
The Green MEP, who was a negotiator on the EU’s rule of law mechanism, wants Brussels to finally act by immediately cutting funds.
He told Express.co.uk: “It’s no coincidence that the rule of law issues are greatest in those countries that also receive the most EU funds.
“Corruption with EU funds lies at the heart of the European rule of law crisis. It is right that the EU Commission puts this connection in Poland and Hungary in the foreground of its report.
“European taxpayers’ money is systemically misused to dismantled democracy. This is also where the solution lies. If we want to prevent Hungary and Poland from developing further into autocracies, the EU Commission must immediately stop the disbursement of EU money to Warsaw and Budapest.”
With their plans still yet to be approved, the chapters from the report on Hungary and Poland are particularly sensitive.
The EU’s rule of law mechanism was negotiated as part of the bloc’s coronavirus recovery fund.
It is designed to allow member states and EU officials to intervene if a country is deemed to be abusing the rules sufficiently to impact the bloc’s financial interests.
Both capitals have submitted their proposals and remain in dialogue with Brussels in the hope of securing the support of the Commission.
Warsaw has asked for nearly £21billion, while Hungary has bid for £6billion, of the bloc’s £691billion recovery fund.
Poland has been given an extra month to win approval for its plan, which critics of Warsaw’s nationalist government say should be rejected.
Mr Freund added: “The Rule of Law Report now documents the glaring deficiencies in Poland and Hungary for a second time in 12 months.
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“However, no countermeasures have been taken by the EU Commission.
“Commission President Ursula von der Leyen knows very well, however, that this crisis cannot be solved by writing yet another concerned report.
“The Commission must finally act. With the rule of law mechanism, it has a sharp sword with which it can impose sanctions on Warsaw and Budapest. Any further hesitation is fatal. Because the example of Viktor Orban is now setting a precedent throughout Europe.”
The report heavily criticises Hungary for failing to address high-level corruption, such as clientelism and favouritism, at the top of government.
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And of Poland, the report warns of the risk of “undue influence” on corruption prosecutions.
It also raises concerns over the fact that the minister of justice is also the country’s prosecutor-general.
Austria and Bulgaria are cited as potential corruption worries, while the Czech Republic is said to have issues with high-level conflict of interests.
The report will be unveiled later today by EU commissioners Didier Reynders and Vera Jourova.
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