Compromise over EU budget, recovery fund possible - Polish FM

Radek Pietruszka/PAP

Poland’s foreign minister has said that a compromise with the EU over a contentious mechanism in the next EU budget can be reached, but only if the mechanism is limited to protecting the budget from criminal acts.

The EU and Poland and Hungary have been at loggerheads over the mechanism, which ties funding to respect for the rule of law. The two Central European states have threatened to veto the budget, and with it an attached pandemic recover fund, if the mechanism remains in place.

"A compromise (over the EU budget - PAP) must come down to a fundamental thing; conditionality can only be limited to the protection of the EU budget, safeguarding it against criminal activities aimed at misappropriation of these funds," Zbigniew Rau told public radio.

He said that it was "indeed possible" to reach an agreement and end the dispute over the EU budget and recovery fund at Thursday's EU summit "if the whole conditionality mechanism comes down to this."

"If not - there will be no such agreement (...) in the next two days and the entire procedure will probably be extended," Rau added.

This could lead to another European Council meeting this year or "the negotiations will be moved to new circumstances under the Portuguese presidency."

Rau's comments come after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski met Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, in Warsaw on Tuesday evening.

Referring to Orban's statement following the Tuesday talks that "we are close to victory," Rau said that it may mean that "the conditionality mechanism, which boils down to (...) only legal uncertainty, the possibility of influencing the behaviour of European Union member states on the basis of political or, worse, ideological criteria - will not apply."

Orban said on Tuesday that the policies of Poland and Hungary concerning the rule-of-law requirement in the next EU budget are completely in line with EU law.

"We must defend the EU treaty, we must defend our national interests, we must defend the financial resources that are owed to our countries, and we have arranged just how to do it," he said.

Orban also said that, in his opinion, there was a chance to close the budget talks this week, during the EU summit on Thursday.

A European Council summit is scheduled for Thursday and Friday.