Hungary and Poland unite on opposing EU budget cuts

WARSAW (Reuters) - The prime ministers of Hungary and Poland, allies in a series of disputes with Brussels, united on Monday in opposing cuts under the European Union’s new budget.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki meets his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban in Warsaw, Poland May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Both countries are accused by the European Commission of undermining judicial independence in a row that threatens their future funding from the bloc.

Neither Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki nor his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban commented on an EU plan to cut money in the 2021-2027 budget for member states that interfere in their legal systems.

However, after meeting in Warsaw they declared their common ground on farm payments under the Common Agricultural Policy and reforming the EU budget after Britain leaves the bloc.

On Monday Brussels gave Poland until late June to settle its dispute with the EU over the independence of its courts.

Orban said he and Morawiecki agreed on two principles. “We want to protect the interests of our farmers. So we do not think it is appropriate to reduce the agricultural budget,” he told reporters.

“We also agreed that we have no objections to setting up new funds, as there are always new tasks. But the creation of new funds should not be a justification for the reduction of existing funds that have been functioning well,” he added.

The Commission, backed by Germany, France and the EU’s other wealthy paymasters, wants to tie funding on which poorer eastern countries rely to respect for the rule of law. This could cost Hungary and Poland millions of euros.

Orban won a third four-year term in April and is on his first foreign policy visit since then to Poland, which is the biggest beneficiary of EU aid, using it to upgrade its infrastructure.

Morawiecki said the two countries had “absolutely identical” positions on compensating budget losses due to Brexit and on the common agricultural policy.

Poland and Hungary also have a common stance on migration.

Hungary says it would not agree with any proposal that would provide the potential for blackmail of anyone with regard to the payment of EU funds based on the treaties.

Reporting by Pawel Sobczak; Additional reporting in WARSAW by Anna Koper and in BUDAPEST by Krisztina Than; Writing by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and David Stamp