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Poland and Hungary will block EU budget if democracy conditions are attached to funds, prime ministers say

POLAND and Hungary will block the European Union’s budget at a summit next week unless it drops conditions attached to funding access, their prime ministers say.

Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki met Hungary’s Viktor Orban on Monday and the two confirmed a pact by which they will veto the budget — including a €750 billion (£675bn) stimulus package to address economic dislocation caused by the coronavirus pandemic — if it contains any clauses unacceptable to either of them.

The pair object to a clause allowing the EU to withhold funds from countries deemed not to adhere to democratic standards. 

The European Commission has attacked Hungary’s government for “undermining media, academic and religious freedom,” though it has not raised objections to a law banning communist symbols so sweeping it led Mr Orban to threaten to ban the Heineken beer logo, a five-pointed red star.

And it has criticised the Polish government for attacking judicial independence and cracking down on women’s and LGBT rights.

But the two countries say that tying funding to political conditions violates the EU’s founding treaties.

“We wish to stress that the deal on the budget must be in line with the treaties,” a Polish government spokesman said after the meeting, though he said that the two countries were open to new proposals about how the budget could be agreed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel countered that the rule of law was “the foundation of the European project” but suggested a compromise would have to be reached, as “we absolutely want to have a result.”

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