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More debates on EU rule of law conditionality

July 24th, 2020

A centrist and a conservative analyst believe that the EU recovery fund agreement offers powerful tools for the European Council to punish countries found guilty of violating basic EU norms.

On Portfolio, Attila Weinhardt contends that the European recovery fund deal leaves Brussels with more leverage to sanction governments that violate basic EU norms than several superficial first readings of the agreement suggest. Weinhardt acknowledges that the wording is deliberately vague, allowing all parties to claim victory. But the agreement states clearly that a qualified majority in the European Council can pass sanctions. This means in practice that Hungary and Poland can no longer veto or threaten to veto procedures against one or both of them in the European Council, Weinhardt points out. The European Parliament, he adds, has already indicated that it will urge the European Commission to introduce new mechanisms to defend the rule of law in the EU. In addition, Ursula von der Leyen also hinted that the European Council may also get additional powers to punish countries found in breach of EU norms. Weinhardt finds telling in this respect a statement by Minister of Justice Judit Varga on Wednesday who said she expects an even tougher ‘attack’ from the European Union in the autumn.

Mandiner’s Barnabás Heincz also thinks that the agreement may allow the EU to punish countries that are deemed in violation of EU norms. The conservative analyst suspects that Hungary and Poland may cooperate with southern states to reject strict spending regulations in the European Council and jointly block proposals that would harm any of them. But without further allies, Hungary and Poland themselves can no longer veto resolutions, Heincz writes. It will be crucial, therefore, for Hungary to make sure that the new policy on rule of law compliance will be in-line with Hungary’s strategic interests.

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