WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The right-wing governments of Poland and Hungary filed a complaint with the European Union's supreme court on Thursday challenging a new mechanism that links funding with the respect for rule of law.
The rule of law mechanism was included in the budget which the EU approved last year covering the 2021-27 period and which also included a massive coronavirus stimulus fund.
The Polish government spokesman, Piotr Müller, said the mechanism “violates the law of the European Union,” in a statement announcing the legal challenge filed with the European Court of Justice.
The challenge means that implementation of the new funding rule could be delayed up to two years, giving more breathing space ahead of the next national elections to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's party Fidesz and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's Law and Justice party.
The next parliamentary elections are scheduled in Hungary in 2022 and in Poland in 2023.
Poland and Hungary have faced criticism in the EU for years over allegations that they have been eroding judicial and media independence, among other democratic principles. The EU had found itself unable to do much to alter the course of either nation, and therefore turned to linking money to their adherence to democratic behavior.
Hungary and Poland initially sought to block the budget because of the introduction of the new mechanism, but eventually agreed to the plan on condition that the European Court of Justice would review it.
Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga wrote Thursday on Facebook that with their challenge, Poland and Hungary are following through with what they had promised to do last year. She said the EU rule of law mechanism “seriously infringes legal certainty.”
“The left went too far when it launched an attack on Hungary in the middle of the pandemic," she said. “We repelled this attack and managed to defend Hungarian interests concerning the EU budget. However, what is unlawful cannot be left without a word."
Also Thursday, members of the European Parliament urged the European Commission, the executive arm of the bloc, to activate the rule of law mechanism without delay. They stressed “the continuous deterioration of the situation in some countries, including Hungary and Poland,” according to a statement released by the parliament.
The statement said that the budget commissioner, Johannes Hahn, told them that before the mechanism is used guidelines need to be completed, and that it should also take into account the European court ruling, which is expected in May.
Associated Press Writers Justin Spike in Budapest, Hungary, and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed.