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Janez Jansa warned countries could follow Britain’s lead and quit the bloc if the row over its €1.8 billion budget and recovery fund are not resolved. In a letter to his EU counterparts, he wrote: “The EU today is a convoy of ships sailing on rough seas. “In front of our ship’s convoy called the EU are reefs and icebergs. There are many challenges we can overcome, but only if we abide by the contract that unanimously sets the direction of our voyage.”
Mr Jansa’s letter was sent to convince the EU27 to be forgiving to Hungary and Poland’s recent veto of the bloc’s next seven-year budget.
The rogue capitals crashed the package in a disagreement over a rule of law mechanism that links future EU funding to good behaviour.
Budapest and Warsaw have been at loggerheads with the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, over recent allegations of democratic and judicial abuses.
Mr Jansa urged the EU to revert back to the rule of law fudge endorsed by Hungary and Poland at this summer’s acrimonious summit to agree the budget and coronavirus bailout.
The mechanism has since been toughened up after months of negotiating with MEPs to secure the support of the European Parliament.
“Neglecting our historical agreement reached at July ECUO is like quarrelling over a menu on a ship sailing towards an iceberg,” Mr Jansa said.
Hungary and Poland have refused to back down in the row, which threatens the existence of the €750 billion fund for pandemic-ravaged regions and industries.
Under the plan, the European Commission will borrow the cash on international markets before handing it out in the form of non-repayable grants and low-cost loans.
The recovery fund was an unprecedented step towards a “United States of Europe” as the bloc’s leaders agreed, for the first time, to take on vast sums of joint debt.
Judit Varga, Hungary’s justice minister, said: “I think today ‘rule of law’ is everything and anything that you don’t like about Hungary.”
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She insisted it was “unfair” to link funding to the EU’s perception of rule of law because each member state has its own judicial system.
Pawel Jablongski, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, the new mechanism was “very vague and very wide” and would allow the EU to impose sanctions even before countries are found guilty of breaking the rules.
“Potential risk is something that could be triggered by literally anything,” he said.
“We’ve already had suggestions that issues as far from judicial reform as the issues of of alleged LGBT or abortion regulation could trigger these sanctions.
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“So the intentions of the authors of it are clear. After years of discussions and debates, we have no more trust in the intercity of the institutions that are behind it, so we simply can’t agree to it.”
At meeting of EU ministers, France, Germany and Denmark warned that the bloc couldn’t afford delays to its funding package.
German Europe minister Michael Roth said: “There are many billions of euros that go to Hungary and Poland. These citizens deserve European solidarity as much as others.
“We’ve got to break this deadlock and the presidency will try to work out solutions.”
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