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Europe’s Green Deal in limbo as EU faces existential crisis

The Times

Hungary and Poland are threatening to tear up European Union treaties as they raise the stakes in a battle over democratic principles and the budget.

Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, and Mateusz Morawiecki, his Polish counterpart, have vetoed the EU budget. ZOLTAN FISCHER/HUNGARIAN PM PRESS OFFICE/REUTERS

The EU has proposed a mechanism linking its €1.8 trillion budget and coronavirus recovery package to each member state’s respect for the rule of law. Brussels has accused Poland and Hungary of undermining democracy.

The two countries vetoed the mechanism last week, stalling the implementation of the budget and rescue package that should come into force in January. Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, met Viktor Orban, his Hungarian counterpart, in Budapest yesterday and they released a statement reiterating that they would not approve the budget until the “rule of law” demands had been withdrawn. This, they said, should involve an “intergovernmental conference to negotiate modification of the EU treaties”.

Unwinding treaties could open a can of worms for Brussels, which already has the pandemic, climate change and Brexit on its plate. Budapest and Warsaw face what are known as Article 7 procedures for breaching the rule of law — for corrupting their judiciaries, cracking down on charities and independent institutions and restricting media freedom.

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