EU should postpone talk of rule of law, says Hungary's Orban

  • World
  • Wednesday, 25 Nov 2020

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Brussels, Belgium, July 17, 2020. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called on Germany not to link the European Union's budget to the upholding of rule of law in the bloc, saying that asking him to back such a link was tantamount to asking for his "suicide".

Last week, Hungary and Poland vetoed proposals that would make it possible for countries that fail to meet EU rule of law standards to be denied access to funds from the bloc's next budget and from a 750 billion euro pandemic recovery fund.

In an interview with German weekly Die Zeit, Orban blamed the European Parliament and Germany for linking the two questions - although EU leaders, including Orban, had already agreed to such a linkage in negotiations in July.

"The European Parliament tried to link the two things retroactively, threatening to block the budget and the coronavirus aid if they were not linked to a new, undefined rule of law mechanism," he was quoted as saying.

"As we see it, the German presidency decided to follow them in deviating from the July decision," he added. Germany, as current holder of the bloc's presidency, sets agendas for meetings of leaders.

Orban said discussion of a rule of law mechanism should be postponed until after the budget had been settled.

In June, leaders agreed to leave the precise outlines of the yet-to-be defined rule of law mechanism undefined, partly in order to secure Hungary and Poland's consent for the principle.

Orban's critics say close allies have grown rich from EU funding that has been distributed in untransparent ways. The wealthy northern countries that contribute the bulk of its budget want the mechanism to tighten up on misspending.

Orban said that he had discussed the matter with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"What you're asking me for, Angela, that would be suicide," he said he told her.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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