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Monday, November 29, 2021

The European Commission wants information from Poland and Hungary in the context of the conditionality mechanism

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The European Commission requests information from Poland and Hungary “on matters that may be relevant for the application of the general conditionality mechanism”. This mechanism allows for the blocking of EU money if the situation in a Member State raises concerns regarding the rule of law. As the spokesman of the European Commission explained, the information will be taken into account in the Commission’s assessment of whether countries qualify for the use of the mechanism against them. Hungary and Poland have two months to submit the required information.

European Commission spokesman Christian Wigand confirmed that “On November 19, the Commission services sent administrative letters to Hungary and Poland asking for information on issues that could be relevant for the application of the general conditionality mechanism.”

– Under the General Conditionality Mechanism Regulation, the Commission may contact the Member State concerned and request information if necessary for its evaluation. The information requested will be taken into account by the Commission in assessing whether the conditions for sending the notification under the conditionality mechanism to the Member States are met. Hungary and Poland now have two months to submit the required information, he added.


Conditionality mechanism

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In December 2020, the leaders of the EU countries agreed on the multiannual budget of the Community, the reconstruction fund (RRF) and the conditionality mechanism. The latter is to be used to protect the Union’s budget in the event of violations of the rule of law in the Member States. The mechanism assumes that Brussels may freeze EU funds for a member state if it determines that there is a risk of their misuse, for example, of embezzlement.

His appeal was announced by the heads of governments of Poland and Hungary – Mateusz Morawiecki and Viktor Orban. The complaint was brought to the Court of Justice of the EU on March 11, 2021. The Court has already started the hearing. However, a decision has yet to be made. The conditionality mechanism in Luxembourg is defended by the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission. 10 EU countries, which are on the side of the mechanism, joined the case.

It is not yet known when the CJEU will announce a judgment in this case. The publication of the Opinion of the Advocate General of the Court is scheduled for 2 December. Commentators assume that the verdict should not be expected before the new year.

Poland and Hungary are waiting for the approval of the reconstruction plans

In order to unblock the disbursement of funds from the reconstruction fund for a given country, it is necessary for the European Commission to approve the reconstruction plan proposed by each of the Member States. So far, 22 of the 26 national documents submitted have been approved. Poland and Hungary are among the countries that are still waiting for the EC’s decision.

Pressure from the European Parliament

The rule of law conditionality regulation to protect EU funds from misuse entered into force on January 1, 2021. However, no instruments were proposed under the new rules. The European Council asked the EC to delay their application until detailed guidelines on this matter have been developed. Against this background, there was a dispute between the European Commission and the European Parliament.

The EP adopted a resolution in July regretting the Commission’s decision to follow the European Council conclusions and delay the application of the regulation. According to MEPs, these guidelines are not needed. The document was adopted during the plenary session with 529 votes “for”, 150 votes against and 14 abstentions.

MEPs also called on the EC to rapidly investigate any potential breaches of the rule of law “which have or may have a serious impact on the sound financial management of the EU budget”, noting that “the situation in some Member States already warrants immediate action”.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said in October that the Commission would not launch the mechanism before the CJEU ruling on Poland’s and Hungary’s complaints against this mechanism. Later that month The European Parliament has filed a lawsuit against the European Commission to the Court of Justice of the European Union for not applying the regulation on the conditionality mechanism to the budget of the European Union.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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