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13th Aug 2022

MEPs ask why Hungary and Poland funds delayed

  • Economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni was tightlipped on details about the exectuive's demands (Photo: European Parliament)
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MEPs from all sides of the political spectrum have demanded that the EU Commission revealed details of its demands from Poland and Hungary on their recovery plans, whose approvals have been delayed since summer.

Economic commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told little to MEPs on Wednesday (6 October) on where negotiations stood with the two member states, who have been at loggerheads with the EU Commission for years over their backsliding on rule of law.

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Gentiloni said specific milestones had to be achieved by member states for further money to be disbursed from the bloc's €800bn Covid-19 fund. These milestones included anti-corruption reforms, anti-fraud measures, and proper administrative standards, he added.

"We have concerns about the situation in some member states," he also said in the European Parliament hearing, but without going into details.

Gentiloni referred to specific measures to defend rule of law as part of the so-called 'country-specific recommendations', which are linked to the recovery plans, as a way for the commission to defend EU rules.

But he said all member states faced the regime, and denied there were double-standards towards Hungary and Poland, which Budapest and Warsaw have frequently alleged.

Meanwhile, MEPs were unhappy with the lack of details.

"Money can only flow, if the rules, rule of law and European values are respected," Romanian centre-right MEP Siegfried Mureșan, from the European People's Party (EPP) group, said.

"We need to know more about the plans that have not been adopted," he told Gentiloni.

The frustration even connected the Polish governing and opposition parties.

Polish MEP Bogdan Rzońca, from the ruling nationalist-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, said his country had been mistreated.

"There is no real reason for the plan not to have been adopted, […] this is no way to treat a full-fledged member of the union ," he told fellow MEPs.

And MEP Jan Olbrycht from the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, reminded Gentiloni that the PiS government had accused the commission of waging "hybrid war" against Warsaw.

The commission should explain its demands from Warsaw, Olbrycht said, so that opposition MEPs such as himself could "counter this [PiS] narrative".

"To explain where the problem itself we have to hear the facts," Olbrycht told Gentiloni.

'Demands'

The Polish plan has been on hold since summer over Warsaw's refusal to implement decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

A key obstacle is the Polish disciplinary chamber of the Supreme Court, whose functioning, according to the ECJ, breaks EU rules.

The commission has asked the EU's top court to fine Poland for non-compliance.

In Hungary, corruption has been the main concern.

The commission has stepped up pressure on Hungary after deteriorating relations.

But the right-wing government of prime minister Viktor Orbán recently escalated tensions with Brussels, by introducing new anti-LGBTIQ legislation in the teeth of EU values on protecting minorities.

The commission is seeking guarantees from Orbán to take "determined systematic action" to "prosecute high-level corruption", which has been "lacking" in the past, according to a previous report.

An earlier, second deadline ended last month for the commission and the Hungarian government to agree on a solution, but the EU executive has not said when it plans to end talks.

The commission has so far approved 22 plans out of the 25 submitted out of 27 EU states. The Netherlands and Bulgaria have not yet put forward their plans as they are still forming their governments after elections.

The council of member states has given the green light to the first funding to 19 countries, with more than €51bn being disbursed to 16 member states so far.

Besides the Polish and Hungarian recovery plans, the commission is currently assessing Sweden's plan.

EU Commission tightlipped on Hungary recovery-plan decision

Among the criteria needed for EU pandemic recovery funds is for member states to propose arrangements "expected to prevent, detect and correct corruption, fraud, and conflicts of interests when using the funds provided."

Poland questions EU legal primacy in court ruling

Poland's Constitutional Tribunal has ruled that parts of EU treaties were incompatible with the Polish constitution, in a major escalation of the rule-of-law dispute between Warsaw and Brussels.

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