EU Covid “funding bazooka”: will it ever happen?

With Portugal’s ‘recovery’ from the economic mayhem caused by Covid-19 massively dependent on billions promised by Brussels (click here), a split among Member States is causing major headaches. Without consensus there can be no bazooka.

This is a situation that has been simmering for weeks – all stemming from Brussels insistence that Member States benefiting from community funding must align themselves with the ‘rule of law’.

Two countries – Hungary and Poland – have consistently balked at this demand. Hungary particularly due to the fact that it has actually voted to allow its government to rule by decree without a set time limit (something that goes fundamentally against EU law).

Poland’s ruling party too has been seen to be tightening its grip on the judiciary, media and other institutions.

Weeks ago Portugal’s prime minister António Costa – very possibly seeing where all this was leading – said he couldn’t see ‘why’ the aid package was tied-up with the rule of law proviso. But the remark didn’t lead anywhere.

Now the Polish and Hungarian PMs – Mateusz Morawiekcki and Viktor Orbán – have hardened their stance, suggesting if Brussels’ doesn’t change its tune, the EU could disintegrate altogether (meaning ‘bye-bye bazooka’).

In a joint declaration made yesterday, the two prime ministers insisted that neither will give their approval to any proposal that the other finds unacceptable.

In the maelstrom of national politics and ‘Covid news’, this new ‘crisis’ has been pushed to a certain extent onto the back pages, but it has serious ramifications.

Says the FT, “the setback will rekindle talk among EU member states about alternative routes towards the release of the coronavirus recovery spending. One more radical suggestion has been to bypass the states blocking the budget and agree the recovery package as a deal among 25 member states”.

But this doesn’t augur ‘well’ as it suggests the bloc could be on course to become even smaller.

For now, negotiations will be ongoing in the run up to a new summit next month where hopes centre on some kind of deal being forged to see the coronavirus recovery fund and the next seven-year- budget (multiannual financial framework) finally approved.

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