Marton Dunai, Reuters, November 18, 2020
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused the European Union on Wednesday of seeking to “blackmail” member states that did not toe its line on immigration, two days after he vetoed the bloc’s multi-year budget and post-COVID recovery package.
Hungary and Poland on Monday blocked the 2021-2027 budget and the recovery plan, worth a combined 1.85 trillion euros ($2.2 trillion), because access to the funds would be conditional upon respecting the rule of law.
Orban, whose nationalist government is under investigation for undermining the independence of Hungary’s courts, media and non-governmental organisations, linked his veto to his continued opposition to mass immigration into the EU.
“Once this proposal gets adopted, there will be no more obstacles to tying member states’ share of common funds to supporting migration and use financial means to blackmail countries which oppose migration,” Orban said in a statement published by state news agency MTI.
The budget and recovery package do not have any specific clauses about immigration, which Orban has long opposed as a threat to national and European identity and culture.
Political Capital analyst Patrik Szicherle said Orban’s comments were aimed at shoring up support among his nationalist base and at broadening his options in upcoming talks.
Orban’s ally Poland, also under a formal EU process for alleged backsliding on democratic principles, struck a softer tone on Wednesday, saying it sought dialogue with its EU partners.
The eastern states are big recipients of EU subsidies.
Germany, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said on Tuesday it was confident of finding a compromise.