19 November 2020

Rule of law and European core values at a crossroads?

by Hanna Surmatz

While the European Council reached an agreement on the largest package ever financed through the EU budget, totalling €1.8 trillion, Poland and Hungary have now done what they threatened to do – they have vetoed the EU’s 2021-2027 budget and recovery fund and last week’s agreement. The entire budget, including a strong European Values Programme is at stake.

Poland and Hungary, who were not able to veto the decision that EU funding will depend on governments adherence to certain EU values such as the rule of law (rule-of law conditionality), have now blocked the overall budget negotiations (on own resources decision around the recovery fund) at a critical moment, as  anticipated in our blog post earlier this week.

It remains to be seen if Member State leaders, political opposition or civilian protest will manage to convince Hungary and Poland to end their blockage. Until an agreement on the budget is found, the urgently needed recovery package cannot float.

As expected, the veto is creating strong reactions and concerns within Europe and around the world; particularly at the national level in Hungary and Poland, where civil society and opposition parties are expressing the wish to stick to fundamental rights, rule of law and democracy – core European values.

Today, leaders of Hungary’s largest opposition parties issued a joint declaration that Viktor Orbán’s budget veto is against their will and interest. The Hungarian opposition letter is available here.

Political and civilian opposition are currently taking to the streets in Poland, opposing the new abortion policy and the fact that yesterday a Polish judge critical of the judiciary reforms had his immunity from prosecution removed by a disciplinary chamber. Earlier this year, the European Court of Justice ruled that Poland’s government should suspend the Supreme Court’s disciplinary chamber as it was not sufficiently independent. The European Commission had also issued an infringement procedure against Poland regarding the judiciary reforms.

In our European Philanthropy Manifesto, we have as philanthropy infrastructure committed to the need to promote fundamental rights, rule of law and democracy in the strong belief that these values are non-negotiable.

Hanna Surmatz is Enabling Environment Manager at EFC and co-Lead of the Philanthropy Advocacy initiative.