Victor Orban threatens to veto EU rescue plan if linked to rule of law

Angela Merkel and Victor Orban, Sopron, Hungary, 20 August 2019.

Hungarian PM Victor oRban said on Friday that if funding under the EU's coronavirus recovery plan were linked to rule-of-law conditions, Budapest could veto any deal as a last resort, news wires reported. The EU's 27 national leaders are to meet next week in Brussels for the first time in person since the COVID-19 crisis to hash out details of the next multiannual EU budget and post-pandemic recovery.

 

"We could veto (a final accord), because it needs to be a unanimous decision, but we would find ourselves facing off with 26 other countries. One should only do that as a last resort," Orban told Hungarian public radio.

The EU is set to spend € 750bn on aiding economic recovery in member states hardest hit by the pandemic - money that Orban said should be distributed "fairly and flexibly.  "One thing should be carefully avoided: mixing it up with politics. That's (Hungary's) gravest condition," he said.

Orban, a right-wing nationalist who has accumulated unprecedented powers since winning election a decade ago, has clashed with the European Union executive for years over his perceived backsliding from democratic governance, Reuters recalls.

When a liberal Hungarian EU lawmaker on Wednesday asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel, now holding the EU's rotating presidency, whether the EU was prepared to condition recovery funding on adherence to democratic standards in Hungary, Merkel told the European Parliament she would engage with Orban. "Defending the rule of law is important...We are going to say things clearly when it comes to Viktor Orban," Merkel said. "We will keep a watchful eye on what happens there."

Orban lashed back on Friday, dismissing the criticism as "liberals mouthing off... always trying to attach their ideology to economic matters of the EU”.

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