MEPs tell EU leaders that bloc's values are ‘non-negotiable’ as summit kicks off

A petition, signed by 27 deputies from various groups, also urges leaders not to accept blackmailing from Poland and Hungary.
European Council Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

10 Dec 2020

The EU summit in Brussels on Thursday will attempt to resolve the impasse over the EU’s €1.85 trillion budget and recovery plan.

Hungary and Poland say they will veto the whole package unless the rule of law mechanism is removed. This binds future EU funds to respect for the rule of law.

The MEPs have sent a petition to the summit, urging leaders not to back down in the ongoing spat with Hungary and Poland.

The petition says that the impasse means that “urgently-needed aid money for the European economy and citizens amounting to €750 billion can therefore not be paid out as planned at the beginning of 2021.”

It goes on, “The governments of Hungary and Poland are blocking the EU budget and the Corona recovery programme. The veto from Warsaw and Budapest threatens to worsen the economic hardship and plunge Europe into a severe crisis.”

The petition was organised by German Greens MP Franziska Brantner and German Greens MEP Daniel Freund.

Freund said, “Hungary and Poland are abusing their veto to prevent the new rule of law mechanism. The EU wants to make sure that only Member States who respect the rule of law receive EU funds.”

“We are not just a community of money, but one of values. Our European values are non-negotiable. Anyone who violates the cornerstones of the EU will face financial sanctions. This is what the European Parliament is calling for”

Daniel Freund, Greens/EFA

“Both Hungary and Poland have long been criticised for abolishing the separation of powers, for taking action against the free press or for suppressing minorities. This is blackmail against the European Union.”

“We say: This has to stop. We are not just a community of money, but one of values. Our European values are non-negotiable. Anyone who violates the cornerstones of the EU will face financial sanctions. This is what the European Parliament is calling for.”

The MEPs want the EU to put the existing rule of law mechanism to a vote.

The petition adds, “Parliament and Council have reached a workable compromise in lengthy negotiations to defend Europe's rule of law. This law has a clear majority in the European Parliament and the EU Council. If it is put to a vote now, Poland and Hungary will lose their leverage.”

They also say that the EU budget and Coronavirus recovery funds should now be dispersed without the participation of Poland and Hungary.

The petition reads, “The signal to Viktor Orbán and Mateusz Morawiecki must be clear: We are not giving up European solidarity so that fundamental rights can be eroded in some Member States.”

“Merkel should not make a rotten compromise and be absolutely clear: we will not be blackmailed.”

“The governments of Hungary and Poland are blocking the EU budget and the Corona recovery programme. The veto from Warsaw and Budapest threatens to worsen the economic hardship and plunge Europe into a severe crisis”

Petition from MEPs to EU leaders

Other MEPs to sign include Sven Giegold, Guy Verhofstadt, Sergey Lagodinsky, Terry Reintke, Rasmus Andresen, Alexandra Geese, Damian Boeselager, Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Sylwia Spurek, Ramona Strugariu and Lara Wolters.

Separately, Socialist group leader Iratxe García Perez said, “It looks like the Hungarian and Polish governments understood that being part of the EU means both benefits and responsibilities.”

“I hope that the Council today will unblock the approval of the next seven-year budget and the Recovery Fund while not changing a single comma of the agreement reached by the Parliament and the Council on the rule of law regulation.”

She added, “Having the Court of Justice as an arbiter to ensure impartiality only reinforces the rule of law in the EU. In any case, the European Parliament will be vigilant that any interpretation from the Council does not alter the effectiveness of the legal instrument.”

“We have all worked very hard over the past months so that the EU can deliver the financial support that citizens and businesses need to face the COVID-19 crisis, as of January 1. I hope the Council will decide so that the Parliament can vote on the package next week,” she said.

Speaking on the eve of the summit, Council President Charles Michel noted, “I am confident that we can find an agreement on a common package to allow for the swift implementation of both the Multiannual financial framework and the Recovery fund.”

Elsewhere, Greens co-leader Philippe Lamberts said, “If necessary, the 25 other Member States should go ahead with the recovery and budget plan on their own. The veto is definitely a hindrance so we should govern with 25 Member States rather than grant concessions on the rule of law.”

“Nor do I welcome Angela Merkel’s willingness to compromise on the rule of law. There can be no compromise on this. There is no possibility of dialogue on this because, for us, this issue is a red line.”

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