European Union countries should only get money from the bloc’s budget and the Covid-19 recovery fund if they have robust courts and safeguards against corruption, a top official has said, a couched warning to Poland and Hungary, among others.
The 27 national EU leaders meet next week in Brussels to haggle over nearly 2 trillion euros in their joint budget for 2021-27 and extra funds to help kick-start growth on the continent, which is headed for its worst-ever economic downturn.
Conditions attached to getting the money – whether related to democratic standards or economic reforms – are among the biggest points of contention that have so far barred the necessary unanimous agreement among all member states.
“The rule of law should be the condition for distribution of EU money,” Vera Jourova, a deputy head of the bloc’s executive European Commission said in talks among national justice ministers.
She cited a “functioning judiciary” and powerful mechanisms to fight corruption among the necessary requirements.
Poland’s governing right-wing nationalist and populist Law and Justice (PiS) party has been accused of democratic backsliding and erosion of the rule of law since winning a parliamentary majority in 2015.