March 21, 2019 / 11:38 PM / a month ago

German minister urges sanctions on EU members flouting principles

Germany's Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas attends a news conference with Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini, Sweden's Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom and State Secretary for Foreign Policy of Denmark Jonas Bering Liisberg, in Helsinki, Finland March 19, 2019. Lehtikuva/Jussi Nukari via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday the European Union should cut funding and impose sanctions on members which pass laws that contravene core EU principles such having an independent judiciary and freedom of the press.

Maas told German broadcaster ZDF that countries like Romania, Hungary and Poland received more EU funding than they provided, so curtailing that could provide important leverage.

“There are basic core principles that all must respect,” Maas said on a ZDF program. With members that breach them, “we’ll have to investigate if that should have financial consequences,” he added.

Cutting funding “is the only language that is understood there,” he said of countries which pass laws to restrict freedom of the press, for instance.

The European Parliament’s main center-right bloc voted on Wednesday to suspend the Fidesz party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban amid concerns it had violated European Union principles on the rule of law.

Orban, who took power in 2010, has tightened controls over Hungarian public life, including the courts, the media and the economy, as well as education and now scientific research.

The EU is also at odds with Poland and Romania over legal steps that critics say undermine the rule of law and other core European values.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Richard Chang

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