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Hungary Denies Claim It Backs Linking EU Budget to Rule-of-Law

Hungary Denies Claim It Backs Linking EU Budget to Rule-of-Law

(Bloomberg) — Hungary rejected a claim by the European Union’s rotating presidency that all member states have agreed to tie the bloc’s funding to rule-of-law conditions.

“No way, this is a misunderstanding,” Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said by phone on Monday, reacting to a statement by Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, whose government holds the EU’s rotating presidency. Hungary would be ready to veto the EU budget if payouts were linked to new rule-of-law criteria, Kovacs said.

Hungary and Poland, which are already at odds with the EU over alleged rule-of-law violations, have opposed linking billions of euros of aid from the EU to democratic standards, a conditionality currently discussed as part of the next seven-year EU budget from 2021.

Rinne, scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest on Monday, has claimed Hungary and Poland had given up their opposition to the new budget rule.

“I’m going to tell you some news,” Rinne told Finnish broadcaster YLE Radio Suomi on Sunday. “At the moment it looks like all member states are prepared to accept that with regards to the EU budget, measures that endanger the EU budget, there’s a preparedness to link conditionality between the rule-of-law principle and multi-annual financial framework.”

Rinne declined to go into detail about what specifically member states had agreed to. Hungary’s Kovacs said coming up with new ways for the EU to spur members to adhere to the rule-of-law, including a proposed peer review process, were a matter to be discussed separate of the EU budget.

“Trying to link rule-of-law conditions to the EU budget is pure political blackmail,” he said. “If member states insist on it, then there simply won’t be an EU budget because Hungary will veto it.”

–With assistance from Jonathan Stearns.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zoltan Simon in Budapest at [email protected];Kati Pohjanpalo in Helsinki at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at [email protected], Andrea Dudik, Andrew Langley

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