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Hungary will seek to annul rule-of-law conditionality regulation in EU court - minister

FILE PHOTO: Hungary's Justice Minister Judit Varga arrives for a meeting of EU General Affairs ministers at the European Council building in Luxembourg, October 13, 2020. Virginia Mayo/Pool via REUTERS

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary will launch a case to annul the rule of law conditionality regulation approved at this week’s European Union summit, in the bloc’s top court, Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga told state radio on Friday.

The declaration, launched at the EU summit on Thursday, states that the rule-of-law link to funds will be applied objectively, and only to safeguard the proper use of EU money, rather than to punish countries under separate EU rule-of-law probes.

With a compromise hammered out with Poland and Hungary earlier, EU leaders unblocked on Thursday a 1.8 trillion euro financial package to help recover from a novel coronavirus-induced recession.

To delay the application of the new regulation on the rule of law, Poland and Hungary can ask the EU’s top court to check if it is in line with EU treaties, which could take two years.

“No one should have any doubts the Hungarian government will attack this (in EU’s court) as we believe there are rule of law problems with the text of the regulation itself, and I am sure the EU court will remedy these,” Varga told state radio.

Poland and Hungary had blocked the EU budget and recovery fund because access to the money is, for the first time, to be linked to respecting the rule of law.

The two countries are under EU investigations for undermining the independence of courts and media and were at risk of losing billions of euro from the EU.

(This story corrects to say Hungary will challenge rule of law conditionality regulation not the declaration, in headline, first paragraph and paragraph 5 quote)

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Sam Holmes, Robert Birsel

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