Budapest, Hungary – The rule of law debate has to be separated from the EU budget and the Covid Recovery Fund, reiterated Viktor Orbán in his radio interview this morning, after Poland seemingly backed down from its initial position, leaving Hungary isolated.
Orbán stated that the Polish solution “won’t work” for Hungary after Poland said on Thursday that it would be ready to drop its veto to the EU budget and recovery fund if EU leaders endorsed an explanatory memorandum on the link between EU funds and the rule of law.
Rule of law: a tool to punish countries
Orbán stressed that there was an agreement between the Hungarian and the Polish governments according to which the two countries would not accept any conditions that are unacceptable for the other.
The Prime Minister argued that the Rule of Law mechanism was simply a tool to punish countries that do not want to accept immigrants, adding that Hungary did not need the Covid Recovery Fund and that the government only accepted it out of solidarity with southern member states.
Poland and Hungary have been at odds with the EU in recent weeks over the bloc’s historic €1.8tn budget, which includes €750bn for a COVID recovery fund, over a clause that ties funding with adherence to the rule-of-law in the bloc. The two countries are currently under investigation for undermining the independence of courts, media and non-governmental organisations.
When asked whether the recent Szájer-scandal was way for fellow EU members to pressure on Hungary into accepting the budget, Orbán stated that there was no proof, but that he could “imagine anything”, suggesting that he had his own theories about what happened.
József Szájer, a Fidesz founding member and deputy-whip of the EPP, was caught breaking Covid-rules while attending a sex party in Brussels last Friday.
COVID-19 vaccine: the EU “humiliated”
Viktor Orbán also talked about the Coronavirus vaccine and stated that the EU was humiliated by the fact that the United Kingdom is able to start vaccinations next week, before any country in the European Union. The UK is bound by EU law until January, and thus would have been able to start vaccinations even without Brexit.
Applications for the vaccine shortlist will start soon, and the government is negotiating with the West as well as Russia and Israel to get a vaccine, Orbán added.
The European Union has given its green light for Hungary to use the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, but warned it must assume “full responsibility”, after Hungary broke ranks with the EU Commission’s plan to acquire coronavirus vaccines as a bloc.
By Ábel Bede
Ábel Bede was born in Budapest and is currently studying History at Durham University. He wrote his dissertation on early 20th century Hungarian politics and culture and published several pieces in prominent Hungarian newspapers. Feel free to check out more of his articles right here!