Orban Slams EU Plan on Linking Funds to Rule-of-Law as ‘Illegal’

(Bloomberg) -- A European Parliament initiative to tie the bloc’s payments to rule-of-law criteria in member states will fail as it is “illegal” and won’t be backed by national governments, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.

The issue is at the heart of the campaign for European Parliament elections in May, where resurgent nationalists from Poland to Italy are seeking to wrest control of the world’s largest trading bloc.

Orban Slams EU Plan on Linking Funds to Rule-of-Law as ‘Illegal’

"As long as I’m Hungary’s Prime Minister, we will never accept this rule," Orban told public radio Friday.

The European Parliament last week approved legislation that would allow financial sanctions, including the suspension of payments from the EU budget, for violations such as undermining judicial independence or failing to tackle corruption.

A qualified majority of EU government ministers must agree to the new measures for them to take effect in the next seven-year budget cycle starting from 2021. But Orban disputes that, arguing that a unanimous decision is needed for anything related to the EU budget.

The rule-of-law proposal is vehemently opposed by countries such as Hungary and Poland, both net beneficiaries of the common budget, which are facing EU probes for suspected rule-of-law violations.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.