After Poland and Hungary, EU blocks coronovirus relief scheme in turmoil

Nations opposed a provision that tied aid to respect for democratic norms.

The European Union put itself in political crisis on Monday, when two member states blocked its coronovirus recovery plan after objections to provision-conditioning economic aid over a country’s deference to democratic norms.

The historic € 750 billion (or $ 888 billion) relief package is part of the European Union’s total 2.1 trillion budget, which will distribute the funds to the organization’s 27 member states.

The BBC’s report said that Germany’s ambassador to the European Union, Michael Claus, chaired the meeting on Monday, in which Hungary and Poland vetoed the budget agreement.

“It is important that now the whole package is adopted quickly, otherwise the European Union will face a serious crisis,” he said.

Over the past decade, Hungary and Poland have faced international scrutiny for political encroachment in their media and judiciary systems. Both countries are under investigation by the European Union for violating their established democratic norms.

Melissa Hooper, director of human rights and civil society programs at Human Rights First, told ABC News that it’s not surprising that Poland and Hungary blocked a budget tied to respecting a provision for the rule of law.

“It is a messaging tool that they are trying to communicate to the European Union, that they do not want the EU interfering with their internal proceedings or their judiciaries with the internal judiciary, the way they media Are treated – essentially their own treatment of their own democratic institutions, ”she said.

The two member states set out their unequivocal opposition to the plan ahead of Monday’s vote on the budget, with a spokesman for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, tweeting, “We cannot support the plan in its current form to tie the rule criteria to budget decisions.”

Poland called democratic norms a “an excuse” provision to give EU authorities more power over the country’s affairs. “This is really about institutional, political slavery. To the radical limit of sovereignty,” Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro What was said In a press conference on Monday.

Despite Hungary and Poland’s EU budget veto, the two countries are significantly dependent on the economic resources of the bloc. In 2018, the EU spent about $ 7.5 billion in Hungary, which is equivalent to about 5% of the country’s GDP. In the same year, Poland received $ 19 billion from the European Union, or about 3.5% of its GDP.

While EU member states are in dire need of organization funds for the recovery of their COVID-19, many national leaders have emphasized the importance of respecting the provision of rule-of-law for the budget.

“Uncovering the principles of rule of law is an absolute necessity,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said at a press conference after the vote.

Hooper praised the European Union for economic aid conditioning on a rule-of-law provision in the budget, noting that the organization has “lagged behind” in facing Hungary and Poland over their perceived dilution of democratic norms.

“I think they should have done this a long time ago. I think the way they are doing it is really smart because of the way it’s supposed to be a rule of law review in every country Will. It isn’t supposed to be a punishment for countries that are doing badly. It should be like a health checkup, “she told ABC News.

However, Hooper said that the United States and the outgoing Trump administration played some responsibility in encouraging the current deadlock of the European Union.

“Essentially, what [Hungary and Poland] With this veto, we are saying, ‘We do not like the rule of law. If you are going to ensure that the rule of law prevails in our countries, we do not want to play.

“And I think the US government under the Trump administration has encouraged that stance, unfortunately, with personal ties between the president and Orbán and the president and the president [Polish] Government. He said that unfortunately I think the US may take some of the blame for encouraging this internal conflict within the European Union.

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