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14th Aug 2022

Hungary, Poland say 'more talks' needed on UK deal

Hungary and Poland said Monday (8 February) that most of British prime minister David Cameron’s proposals for EU reform are acceptable, but more talks are needed on some issues, and pledged to stand together in political and economic matters.

“We have discussed the changes proposed by Britain and we said that we agree with most of their proposals, but there are some points where more talks are needed” Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban told a joint press conference with the Polish premier Beata Szydlo in Budapest, without elaborating.

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The main sticking point for eastern European countries, from which a significant number of EU workers have come to Britain, has been Cameron’s efforts to curb in-work benefits for EU citizens.

Last Friday Cameron travelled to Warsaw and got the tentative backing of the Polish government for his deal.

The Visegrad countries, known as the V4, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia will hold a meeting on 15 February, to coordinate their position on the draft EU-UK deal, especially on curbing benefit payments.

Szydlo answering a question said the V4 will not agree to extend the interpretation of the proposed measures to an EU-wide level, local news wire MTI reported.

Diplomatic sources told this website earlier that one of the concerns of the eastern member states is that the UK's benefit curbs will open the door for other countries to restrict benefits to EU workers.

A source with knowledge of behind the door discussions told this website that Poland and Hungary, above all, have a problem with London casting their citizens as second class “migrants” in a fellow EU country, rather than with Cameron’s actual proposals.

EU diplomats and national negotiators will sit down once again on Thursday in Brussels to hammer out the details of the deal.

Venice in Warsaw

Szydlo and Orban on Monday also committed for Poland and Hungary to stick together on political issues.

Orban said: “I want to make it clear, Poland can count on Hungary’s solidarity against any kind of double standards being applied against it.”

The comments came as officials from the Venice Commission, a group of legal experts at the Council of Europe , arrived in Warsaw on Monday for a two-day fact-finding visit to check if Poland’s recent legislation is in line with EU law.

The head of the mission, Gianni Buquicchio, started by meeting Polish president Andrzej Duda.

Under pressure from Frans Timmermans, a EU Commission vice president, the Polish government requested the Venice Commission review late last year after new measures regulating the constitutional court and public media sparked concerns among EU officials.

Last month, the EU Commission launched an unprecedented probe into the controversial reforms made by the Law and Justice (PiS), which swept into power last October.

The Venice Commission’s findings, which are expected in a few weeks, will feed into the EU Commission’s legal assessment of whether the Polish government has taken a worrying turn towards weakening the rule of law.

The EU Commission’s review of Polish reforms comes after years of similar probes into Hungary, where PM Orban revamped the constitution and centralised power, vowing to build an "illiberal" state and criticising what he saw as politically motivated interference from Brussels.

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