EU on brink as bloc could tear itself apart from inside with major fund power

Viktor Orban says he is fighting for ‘common sense’ at EU summit

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This week, the EU Commission will get the final sign-off required to slash funding to members like Hungary and Poland for flouting democratic standards. Warsaw and Budapest appealed against the rule of law mechanism in December 2020.

The rule of law allows the EU to reduce funding to countries where problems negatively affect European taxpayers’ money.

The Commission agreed to hold off until the EU Court of Justice ruled on a legal challenge to the authority from Hungary and Poland.

The EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, is facing increasing pressure from the EU Parliament after lawmakers called for quick action to slash funding.

German Green MEP Daniel Freund urged for more pressure from Paris and Berlin to change Ms von der Leyen’s mind after she has stalled on the mechanism in the past.

A spokesperson for the Commission insisted it will protect EU funds.

They said: “The Commission will always act to defend the EU budget.

“As guardian of the [EU] treaties, it will do so on the basis of a sound legal procedure.”

In April, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will be up for reelection and the decision to use the mechanism could come after the election.

A European Commission official told Politico: “If Hungary meets the criteria for triggering, we will trigger.

“The only political question is whether to do it before elections or not.”

Poland and Hungary have been at odds with the EU Commission over issues ranging from LGBTQ+ rights to judicial independence.

Over the weekend, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hinted his country may leave the European Union.

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It is the first time ever that he has mentioned such a possibility. The EU was leading “a holy war, a jihad”.

With these accusations, Mr Orban indicated that he was considering leaving the European Union.

In a speech to supporters in Budapest on Saturday, the right-wing politician called for the EU to show “tolerance” towards Hungary.

In March last year, Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, brought the legal challenge.

Poland rejected the principle of the primacy of EU law over national legislation in certain judicial matters.

This marked the first time in the history of the 27-strong EU bloc that a leader of a member state had questioned wholesale EU treaties in a constitutional court, the BBC reported.

Mr Morawiecki wanted to prevent Polish judges from using EU law to question the legitimacy of judges following recent changes to the judiciary.

These changes were criticised by the European Commission for undermining judicial independence and increasing political control over courts.

Ms von der Leyen said she was “deeply concerned by the ruling”.

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