The EU budget for 2021-2027 is indeed at risk. The citizens of Poland and Hungary must find out what the rule of law procedure brings them.
“Veto or death” – with this dramatic slogan, Poland’s national populists are now carrying their cultural war into the European Union. At the beginning of this week, the Prime Ministers of Hungary and Poland, Viktor Orbán and Mateusz Morawiecki, who were friends with each other, vetoed the EU budget for the next seven years and the corona aid package. At stake are over 1 trillion euros for all 27 EU member states and another 750 billion euros in grants and loans for reconstruction in the post-Corona period. Without a unanimous budgetary decision, the money cannot flow. The demands of Poland and Hungary are so monstrous that the other EU members are still in shock, including and especially Germany, which will hold the EU Council Presidency until the end of the year and should now find a solution.
Budapest and Warsaw demand nothing less than the right to break the law in the EU. With their veto, they want to undermine the rule of law mechanism that has just been adopted by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council. The money from Brussels should also flow if the government of a member state can be proven to have corrupted, fraudulent or disregarded fundamental European values. With the veto, Poland and Hungary are also risking the billions in subsidies that they themselves would receive as net recipients from the EU budget.
The fact that there is no outcry or mass demonstrations in civil societies in Hungary and especially in Poland has to do with the national-populist language of the two prime ministers. In the rollercoaster of national pride and national offense, most Poles and Hungarians find it difficult to subject the decisions of their politicians to a rational analysis. Orbán equates the EU, which in future wants to defend democracy and the rule of law more strongly than before, with the long-gone, but still hated Soviet Union. The Hungarians, oppressed and humiliated for many years, freed themselves in the turning point of 1989/1990. The Hungarians could not agree to a renewed Sovietization, this time by the EU, Orbán said.
In Poland, on the other hand, Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of the national populist ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) and recently deputy prime minister, claims that the EU is even worse than the communists. Brussels wants to impose values on the people of the Vistula that are completely alien to the culture of Poland.
Zbigniew Ziobro, the head of the PiS junior partner Solidarity Poland, justice minister and attorney general rolled into one, also serves up a conspiracy theory for the Poles. Allegedly the “German and European establishment” is planning a revolution in order to rebuild the EU into a major state with the capital Brussels or perhaps Berlin. Ziobro claims that Poland’s budget veto would even count itself financially for the Poles. The provisional budget that came into force on January 1st with the veto is the old one, which is much cheaper for Poland than the new one with its refugee aid for the southerners in the EU.
The budget will be decided at the EU summit on December 10th and 11th. Then the “veto or death” slogan must be off the table. This can only succeed if – despite Corona – as many EU heads of government as possible come to Poland and Hungary to explain to people how the rule of law works and that it will protect their own rights. Angela Merkel should make the veto question a top priority and come to Warsaw and Budapest. It would not be a solution to give up the rule of law mechanism for the sake of peace. That would be the end of the EU.