EU envoys review deal on declaration for Poland, Hungary to unblock EU budget

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki deliver joint statements during their meeting in Budapest, Hungary, November 26, 2020. Zoltan Fischer/Hungarian Prime Minister's Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union ambassadors were reviewing on Wednesday a deal between Poland, Hungary and the German presidency of the EU, for the two countries to withdraw their veto to the bloc’s 1.8 trillion euro financial package, a senior EU diplomat said.

Under the deal, the EU’s rule of law regulation making access to EU money conditional on respecting the rue of law would remain unchanged, the diplomat said.

But Warsaw and Budapest would get assurances from EU leaders in an explanatory declaration that the regulation would be applied objectively and that it could be tried by the EU’s top court before it can be applied, the diplomat said.

This could delay the practical application of the regulation by up to 2 years -- the average waiting time for cases to be tried by the European Court of Justice.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is facing election in 2022 and officials said he was keen to push the application of the regulation until after the vote.

Poland and Hungary are under EU investigation for undermining the independence of courts, media and non-governmental organisations.

They have been blocking the passage of laws needed for the 1.1 trillion EU budget for 2021-2027 and the 750 billion euro recovery fund because with the regulation in place they risk losing access to the money.

They backed down because blocking the EU budget would in the end hurt them the most, the recovery fund could be constructed without them and the rule of law regulation would have been passed without their agreement in any case.

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski