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18th Jan 2019

New Polish PM visits Hungary in snub to Brussels

  • Morawiecki (l) with Orban (r) at the December EU summit (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Poland's new premier meets with Hungary's Viktor Orban in Budapest on Wednesday (3 January) in a show of solidarity against EU criticism of their countries' joint backtracking on democratic values and the rule of law.

It will be Mateusz Morawiecki's first official bilateral visit since taking office last month.

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Morawiecki holds talks with his Hungarian counterpart after the European Commission launched an unprecedented Article 7 sanctions procedure against Poland in December following Warsaw's failure to address the EU's concerns over its controversial overhaul of the judicial system that threatens to put the courts under political control.

Orban has already vowed to veto any possible sanctions – for instance the suspension of voting rights – against Poland which requires unanimity among EU member states.

Orban called the procedure against Poland "deeply unfair and unjust".

"It must be made clear to the EU that it is pointless even to start a procedure against Poland as there is no chance of seeing it through, because Hungary will be there and form an insurmountable road block," he said in a radio interview in December.

The meeting of the two prime ministers is seen as an act of defiance against the EU and Brussels, which both conservative-nationalist governments view as infringing their sovereignty, and endangering Europe's Christian traditions with its overly liberal policies.

Poland and Hungary, along with the Czech Republic, have refused to take in asylum seekers despite an EU decision in 2015 to do so, and as a result the EU commission has referred the countries to the EU's top court in December.

The commission has also taken Budapest to court over Hungary's laws on NGOs and on higher education that target the university in Budapest founded by US financier George Soros, whom the Hungarian government has launched a propaganda campaign against.

The two right-wing governments have so far refused to back down in the face of criticism from the EU.

The EU has struggled for years to temper Orban, who has cracked down on media freedom and the rule of law in Hungary, and is set to win a third consecutive term in office this spring.

With the EU short on tools to reign in governments that challenge common decisions and core values, there is increasing talk of linking EU funds to the respect of the rule of law , an idea supported by both heavyweights in the EU, Germany and France.

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How powerful is Poland's Morawiecki?

The new prime minister of Poland is on a collision course with the EU Commission as well as his party. His debut appearance - and early departure - at last week's summit indicates his future is up in the air.

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The EU executive steps up several probes over Hungary's illiberal tendencies, while it is also suing Poland and the Czech Republic over migrant quotas.

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Faced with poorer infrastructure, dual food standards and what can seem like hectoring from western Europe it is not surprising some central and eastern European member states are rebelling.

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