EU blue lights up Warsaw and Budapest

The monuments of Warsaw and Budapest were dyed blue this Wednesday night to protest the decision of the Polish and Hungarian governments to veto the European Union budget in exchange for conditionality of the rule of law.

“The Polish and Hungarian capitals, Budapest and Warsaw, have one voice,” wrote the mayor of the Hungarian capital, Karacsony Gergely, on Facebook. “We say no to the veto, but we say yes to European values.”

The Statue of Liberty in Budapest and the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw will be illuminated for three days. Other Polish cities will also participate in the event.

“This is how we want to emphasize how much we feel part of the European Union,” wrote Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski on Facebook.

“We hope that our symbolic protest will lead the Government to change its position and annul its veto (…) We do not agree that in the name of partisan games, in the name of some ridiculous bid by right-wing politicians, on who is more anti-European, the welfare of millions of Poles is at stake, “he added.

Unlike governments, which are ruled by conservative parties – the Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland and Fidesz in Hungary – capitals are run by liberal opposition politicians.

A veto of 1.8 trillion euros

The protest has started hours after an agreement began on the EU budget, which could end a three-week lockdown, still without details of what it entails.

EU leaders were expected to pass the bloc’s next seven-year budget in mid-November. The € 1.8 trillion package also includes a € 750 billion recovery fund to boost the economies hardest hit by the pandemic.

But Poland and Hungary vetoed the package due to rule-of-law conditionality that would see EU funding cut for member states deemed repeat offenders in violating core European values ​​such as freedom of the press and independence from power. judicial.

Both Poland and Hungary have been criticized by Brussels for reforms that weaken the independence of the judiciary and the media, or for their treatment of immigrants. The proceedings of Article 7, the EU disciplinary clause, have been initiated against them.

The two countries have called the new rule of law mechanism “political blackmail” and argue that it is part of an unfair ideological battle that Brussels is waging.

Poles and Hungarians disagree

But even in their respective countries, the fight against Brussels is unpopular. A survey conducted by Kantar between the end of September and mid-October revealed that more than three out of four interviewees agree that EU funds should be conditional on the application by national governments of the rule of law and the democratic values.

In both Poland and Hungary, 72% of those surveyed said so. Hang Hungary and Akcja Demokracja from Poland, two groups of civil movements, have also collected some 300,000 messages supporting the conditionality of the rule of law.

“It has been unconditional funding from the EU that has kept (Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor) Orban and (Polish Prime Minister Mateusz) Morawecki alive and now is the time for the EU to come out in support of Polish and Hungarian citizens they have been fighting, “said Piotr Cykowski, spokesman for Akcja Demokracja, in a statement.

“If EU leaders succumb now, then this will only push Orban and Morawecki’s position against the rule of law and pave the way for more autocratic leaders who will want to weaken Europe,” he added.