After the EU summit where an agreement was reached between the German government and the Hungarian and Polish governments, on the basis of which Viktor Orbán and Mateusz Morawiecki agreed to stop vetoing the budget, Hungarian, Polish and EU politicians all shared their insights on the agreement. Because of the compromise solution, it seems that each party can count the agreement as a success, so to speak. However, there are some who are more cautious, saying the decision is neither good, nor bad; and some, including George Soros, who strongly critize the agreement, going as far to say that it sold off EU values.
Following the EU summit, it was announced that Hungary and Poland reached an agreement with Germany and the two countries would not veto the EU budget for the next seven years and the coronavirus aid package. After the agreement, it seems that everyone considers themselves a winner, although Orbán says the debates are not over. Both the multiannual budget and the proposal for a regulation making the payment of EU funds are subject to certain conditions of the rule of law. However, the agreement should also be adopted by the Council of Ministers of the European Union and the European Parliament. Following the EU Summit, Hungarian, Polish, and EU politicians, and even Hungarian-American financier, George Soros shared their insights on the agreement.
According to Fidesz, they fought a long struggle from which they came out victorious, and preserved not only the money of Hungarians, but also the sovereignty, resources, and European solidarity.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke at a press conference held with Mateusz Morawiecki, his Polish counterpart, in Brussels late on Thursday. The PM said that “we have fought for our rights, we have rejected blackmail and everything that isn’t acceptable for our nations.”
He said that they “have definitely achieved three things: we have defended the European Constitution, we have not allowed it to be circumvented. We have averted the danger of forcing on Hungarians decisions that we do not want to make and do not want to accept with budgetary means. And finally, we defended the money of Hungarians, which will come in handy in the economic development of the coming years. We have done our job to the best of our ability, now it is up to national parliaments to discuss and accept what we have achieved.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also talked about the agreement as a success. He said that the achievement is due to the joint work of the Visegrad Four (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia) and is sending a clear signal of loyalty to all European partners in addition to the Visegrad countries. He added that Poland is following Hungary in seeking the opinion of the EU Court of Justice on the compatibility of the mechanism with European treaties.
Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister said that Hungary’s conduct, and the joint Polish-Hungarian negotiating strategy was of fundamental importance in the successful conclusion of the negotiations on the EU budget package at the Brussels summit. He added that a successful (Polish-Hungarian) alliance could be formed, which precluded someone from making a deal with only one of the two countries, pushing the other to the wall.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission talked about the agreement and the EU summit at a press conference Friday morning. She said that Europe is moving forward, with the agreed long-term budgetary framework and financial assistance package for economic recovery. The EU’s seven-year budget and the financial envelope of the coronavirus recovery fund, amounting to around EUR 1.8 billion, are resources that will help rebuild the economy of countries hit by the epidemic and build a more resilient, greener, more digital European Union.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, also talked briefly about the agreement on the budget, saying at the press conference that they were able to reach an agreement thanks to Chancellor Merkel for “rolling up her sleeves” and working on the issue for a long time, with commitment.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also brief when talking about the budget agreement. She thanked her colleagues and said it was a great relief that they had at last agreed and handed over the matter to the European Parliament. The chancellor emphasized that there was already a great need for the money in the middle of the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted after the EU summit that “we just adopted a robust agreement on the mechanism to put in place and respect the rule of law. Europe goes forward, united, and carrying its values.”
However, some European politicians were more cautious when talking about the agreement. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša described the deal to POLITICO as “not good, not bad. As good as possible.” He added that the agreement is a “typical EU compromise.”
At the same time, Guy Verhofstadt even talked about “sold off European values in fear of vetoes.” In a Facebook post, he said that “losing a member is a tragedy, especially one with an unparalleled liberal-democratic tradition like the UK. Losing your very essence as the EU is even worse. European values need to be strengthened through cooperation and integration, not sold off for fear of vetoes!”
Losing a member is a tragedy, especially one with an unparalelled liberal-democratic tradition like the UK.
Posted by Guy Verhofstadt on Thursday, 10 December 2020
US-Hungarian financier George Soros also criticized the compromise on the rule of law reached on Thursday night in his article in Project Syndicate, which publishes opinion articles. According to him, Orbán had planned to withdraw Hungary from the EU in recent days if the rule of law clause had been retained in its original form, as the Hungarian Prime Minister could not allow the extent of government corruption to be exposed, and the rule of law clause would have made this possible. According to Soros, the threat of a veto by Orbán was just a bluff, which Merkel unfortunately fell for.
The billionaire believes that the compromise negotiated by Merkel, Orbán, and the “de facto leader of Poland,” Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, is “the worst possible thing that could have happened” and has three fundamental flaws. Namely, the agreement reached by the three leaders significantly weakens the rule of law clause. According to Soros, under the agreement the rule of law clause could be delayed by up to two years, which is a huge victory for Orbán, as it could easily mean that the rule of law clause will only come into effect after the 2022 elections. He added that according to the declaration adopted at the end of the EU summit, the European Council will exceed its powers by restricting the European Commission from being able to interpret and implement the EU laws that it has voted on itself, setting a dangerous precedent.
featured photo: illustration, a photo from a previous meeting of the heads of states Orbán, Merkel and Macron. (Stephanie Lecocq/MTI/EPA)