Poland and Hungary set to reaffirm stance against Brussels

Budapest vows to shield allies in Warsaw from any EU punishment over reforms

Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki first bilateral visit aims to deepen ties to Viktor Orban’s regime. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki first bilateral visit aims to deepen ties to Viktor Orban’s regime. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

 

The prime ministers of Hungary and Poland will meet on Wednesday to reaffirm their joint stance against criticism from the European Union that their sweeping reforms run counter to the bloc’s core values and threaten the rule of law.

The trip to Budapest will be the first bilateral visit for new Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, highlighting the value that his right-wing populist government places on ties with like-minded Hungarian premier Viktor Orban – and underlining their refusal to back down in a growing confrontation with Brussels.

Mr Orban pledged to defend Poland last month after the EU launched unprecedented “article 7” disciplinary proceedings against its government over a raft of new laws boosting political influence over the judiciary.

Brussels is already taking Hungary to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over its bid to tighten control over foreign-funded NGOs and education reforms that target Budapest’s Central European University, which was founded and is financed by liberal billionaire George Soros.

The EU is also suing Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic at the ECJ for their refusal to accept refugees under a controversial quota plan, which all three states call unworkable, unfair and dangerous to national and European security.

The Polish and Hungarian governments claim to be taking bold steps to protect traditional, conservative Christian values and to defend national sovereignty from an overly liberal and meddling Brussels.

Their critics at home and abroad accuse them of dismantling democratic checks and balances and the rule of law, however, by taking direct or indirect control over the judiciary, major media and formerly independent state agencies.

‘Regional solidarity’

Polish deputy foreign minister Konrad Szymanski said Mr Morawiecki’s visit to Hungary “is above all an expression of our investment in regional solidarity”.

“In the forum of the EU we are dealing with many shared issues. In the coming year, the main one is negotiation of the long-term [EU] budget from 2020. We are well on the way towards working out a joint regional position on this.”

Mr Szymanski said the two leaders would also “discuss issues like migration, energy, security and the future of the EU”.

Disputes over democratic values have exposed the EU’s lack of leverage over recalcitrant members and prompted calls in some countries – including Germany and France – to tie future EU funding to each recipient’s adherence to the rule of law.

Poland and Hungary reject such proposals, as they rely heavily on EU money while aiming a steady stream of vitriol at Brussels.

Mr Orban is expected to host Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Budapest on Thursday, before attending a summit of Germany’s Christian Social Union, the deeply conservative Bavarian allies of chancellor Angela Merkel, who has clashed with the Hungarian leader on many issues.