EU vs Poland and Hungary: A Win for Brussels

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Hungary and Poland have lost their court challenge to an EU rule that allows billions of euros of funding to be withheld.

  • The European Court of Justice has ruled that complying with rule of law is a condition of EU membership. Hungary and Poland had challenged a rule binding EU payments to democratic standards.
  • Governments in Budapest and Warsaw have been accused of backsliding on standards in recent years. Both countries were investigated for undermining the independence of courts, media and NGOs.
  • The Polish and Hungarian governments see things differently however. They argue that national laws in EU countries have primacy over EU law in most cases – making EU interference irrelevant.
  • Hungary is facing a general election in April 2022 in which the Conservative government could lose power. Prime minister Viktor Orban has made the fight with the EU one of his campaign issues.
  • Poles will be voting in autumn 2023. Funding from the European Union is very popular in Poland and has raised the standard of living in many regions. An exit from the EU is highly unlikely.
  • The court ruling could prove difficult for the European Union, too, however. During its current conflict with Russia Brussels needs unity and support especially among its Eastern member states.
Financial Times
Der Spiegel
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