Hungarian press hails joint victory with Poland in budget over rule-of-law battle

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Hungary, Poland and the German presidency of the European Council have hammered out a compromise document in the two sides’ debate with regard to linking budget and recovery fund payments to rule of law conditions.
Hungarian news outlet Magyar Nemzet, which has obtained the draft of the Hungarian-Polish-German agreement, claims it contains significantly more legal and less political criteria than a previous pact between the European Parliament and the German presidency.
A clause has been added to the rule-of-law regulation, which explicitly states that the possible withdrawal of resources can only happen on the basis of certain criteria.
The draft agreement states that the EU cannot use migration or family policy, nor differences of opinion about them as the basis for any sanction. This new text also states that the rule-of-law regulation can only be applied taking into account the national identities of the member states. The previous agreement between the German presidency and the European Parliament did not mention this before.
“The application of the system of conditions will be carried out objectively, fairly, impartially and on the basis of facts. Ensuring the right to a fair trial, non-discrimination and equal treatment between Member States,” the new agreement reportedly says.
Both Hungary and Poland previously used their veto to block the EU’s seven-year budget and recovery funds over its concerns over the new rule-of-law sanctions mechanism, which both countries feared Brussels would use to control migration and family planning in member states.
EU basic treaty unavoidable
The rule-of-law proposal, which already contains a closed list of sanctions, will only be applicable if other procedures laid down in EU law do not provide more effective protection for the EU budget.
This was also an old argument of the Hungarian government, as the EU treaties include infringement proceedings as well as the so-called rule of law procedure under Article 7.
The new agreement also states that it addresses the issue of the rule of law as a matter of priority, so Brussels would not set up another procedure to override EU law.
Legal procedures instead of ideological cloud castles
It is also a step forward that legal certainty and redress are more pronounced in the regulation. Member states may refer the matter to the European Court of Justice for a review of its legality. This could lead to many years of legal proceeding, and as long as the court is investigating, the European Commission cannot propose measures.
Thus, in actions for annulment, the issue of the rule of law outlined will not be operational in practice for approximately two years. This is perhaps the most important point in the newly negotiated text, which was not previously in the European Parliament’s position.
A similar innovation is that the EU’s top body, the European Council of Heads of State and Government, will play a greater role. If a member state refers the sanction taken to the European Council, the chair of the panel should put the issue on the agenda, with the aim of reaching a full agreement between the 27 countries.
Hungarian and Polish success, with guarantees
It is the unanimous opinion of government sources that Hungary has succeeded in adopting extremely favorable points for the country.
If the agreement is approved by the leaders at the EU summit beginning today and then ratified by force by the European Parliament, it will mean a very strong political commitment, so the participants cannot back out. Should this happen, national parliaments could still withdraw from the final ratification of the package.
Title image: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán meet in Sopron, western Hungary on August 19, 2019. (MTI/Szilárd Koszticsák)

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