Hungary says it blocked EU budget over migration 'blackmail'

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Wednesday his country vetoed the EU's budget over plans to tie funding to respect for the rule of law, as it amounted to "blackmailing" countries that oppose migration.

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Hungary and Poland blocked approval on Monday of the EU's long-term budget and coronavirus rescue -- a 1.8-trillion-euro package -- and plunged the bloc into political crisis.

"In Brussels today, they only view countries which let migrants in as those governed by the rule of law," Orban said in a statement.

"Once this proposal gets adopted, there will be no more obstacles to tying member states' share of common funds to supporting migration and (to the) use of financial means to blackmail countries which oppose migration," he said.

Warsaw and Budapest oppose tying EU funding to respect for the rule of law and their envoys vetoed any decision to proceed -- effectively blocking the bloc's coronavirus recovery strategy.

EU leaders thought they had resolved disputes over the seven-year EU budget and associated stimulus plan at a marathon four-day-and-night summit in July.

They have since also resolved differences with the European Parliament over spending priorities, and the trillion-euro budget and 750-billion-euro stimulus package is ready for approval.

But Poland and Hungary remain implacably opposed to tying their future funding to Brussels' judgement on whether their spending is in line with EU law.

"In the migration-related debates of recent years, rule of law has transitioned into a political and ideological weapon from a legal point of reference," said Orban.

"Without objective criteria and the possibility of legal remedy, no procedure that aims to penalise member states should be based on it," he said.

"In our view, tying economic and financial questions to political debates would be a grave mistake, one that would undermine Europe's unity," he added.

(AFP)