EU warned of looming legal clash as MEPs demand budget restrictions on rogue members

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The European Union reached a deal on the £1.6 trillion budged after a troubled marathon summit of EU heads of state in July. While leaders breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the talks, a new obstacle looms as members of the European Parliament will not be asked to give their consent to the agreement. German MEP Rasmus Andresen, budget negotiator for the Greens/European Free Alliance, insisted he will “fight” on behalf of his colleagues to ensure clear restriction are imposed before they agree to the budget.

Speaking to Euronews, Mr Andresen said: “This is key because it is not just about distributing money, it is about our common values.

“On the other side, you have some state leaders like Viktor Orban saying that they cannot agree on a strong rule of law mechanism because their fear is they will have budget cuts.

“This is quite complicated and will end up being one of the most controversial questions left to the end.”

Brussels has been engaged in a drawn-out battle of wills with Easter European member states like Hungary and Poland over their failure to respect the bloc’s rule of law requirements.

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Brussels earlier this year conducted a series of negotiations with both countries, suggesting neither had agreed to “realign with the EU’s founding values.”

But the bloc has been warned attempts to rein in Hungary and Poland through the budget could result in the EU facing a serious legal challenge.

Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPs)’s Jorge Núnez Ferrer said: “You cannot penalise a country for breaking one rule with a completely different instrument.

“Also, the kind of people that are penalised is different. You would have to actually manage this idea that countries pay the beneficiaries even if the EU doesn’t pay so you don’t penalise the citizens.”

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France had previously threatened to stop countries not respecting democratic norms from accessing the the £667 billion coronavirus rescue fund.

European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said: “We can’t tell French, Polish, Hungarian and European citizens that we can have financial solidarity in Europe and not care how the basic rules of democracy, free media and equal rights are respected.”

Reports from democracy monitor Freedom House removed Hungary from the worldwide list of democracies earlier this year, citing the Orban Government’s tight control over media and independent institutions.

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The organization also warned Poland was on track of following Hungary because of concerning political influence over the courts.

And this month a new clash emerged between the European Commission and Hungary after Orban was accused of discriminating between EU citizens in regard of newly-imposed travel restriction.

Budapest last week announced borders would shout down to all European travellers from September 1 in response to a surge of coronavirus cases in the country.

But the Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson insisted Hungary cannot discriminate and unilaterally shut down borders.

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