European Union member states could negotiate an agreement of their own on a post-pandemic recovery package without involving EU institutions if the debate on tying EU funds to the rule of law prevents the bloc from setting up a coronavirus recovery fund, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said ahead of a summit of EU leaders on Thursday.
Talks at the summit are likely to touch on the agreement member states reached in July on the EU’s multiannual financial framework for the 2021-2027 financial cycle and a recovery package to offset the damage wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic, the prime minister told MTI. But, he noted, the deal was still complicated by disagreements as certain member states wanted to tie it to the issue of the rule of law.
The Hungarian government, however, says that Europe should focus on managing the coronavirus crisis for now and the pandemic rescue package should be made available to member states in need of help as quickly as possible, Orbán said. He added that
We shouldn’t slow things down with debates on the rule of law”
The prime minister said now was not the right time to try to link the rule of law issue with financial issues.
But if these debates should hinder the EU from launching its Next Generation recovery plan member states still have the option of setting up the recovery fund outside the confines of EU institutions under an agreement of their own, Orbán said.
The prime minister said the upcoming debate was expected to focus mainly on foreign policy issues such as the bloc’s relationship with Turkey, its long-term relations with China and the situation in Belarus. Concerning the latter, the prime minister said the Visegrad Group had developed “a kind of European Marshall plan” to aid the Belarusian people.
Asked about a letter he wrote this week to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in which he called for the resignation of EC vice-president Vera Jourova for making comments that “are offensive to Hungary and the Hungarian people”, Orbán said he had not yet received a reply but expected to receive one in Brussels.
Hungary believes members of the European Commission, including Jourova, must remain neutral and objective and must not disrespect any member state or their citizens, he said.
Orbán said the use of double standards should be avoided and insisted that if Jourova had “spoken in such a disrespectful manner about the Germans or the French, we can be certain she wouldn’t have remained in office for another minute because the Germans and the French wouldn’t have tolerated it”.
“And if one can’t talk to the French or the Germans in such a manner then one can’t talk to Hungarians so disrespectfully, either, and we are sticking to this position,” the prime minister said.
Featured photo illustration by Vivien Cher Benko/PM’s Press Office