Poland downplays possible EU budget cuts

The European Union’s new budget will have a significant impact on Poland. (AFP pic)

WARSAW: Poland on Monday downplayed possible EU funding cuts, saying the bloc’s draft budget was a good starting point despite Brussels’ warning that Warsaw could face sanctions over controversial judicial reforms.

Unveiling the 2021-27 budget last week, the European Union said it could “suspend, reduce or restrict access to EU funding in a manner proportionate to the nature, gravity and scope of the rule of law deficiencies.”

Brussels has been highly critical of judical and other changes pushed through by right-wing governments in Poland and Hungary, saying they undermine EU democratic norms.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, however, said he believed the EU’s draft budget was “a good basis for further negotiations”, according to the Polish PAP news agency.

“The funding cuts in policy areas that are key for us — the common agricultural policy and cohesion policy — are made to a small extent, while there are also new streams of financing for new activities,” Czaputowicz said, adding that “Poland will also benefit from this.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán warned Friday that Budapest could veto the EU budget proposal.

Negotiations on the EU’s one-trillion-euro-plus (RM4.7 trillion) budget have been made more complicated by Britain’s exit from the bloc, which leaves the remaining 27 member states fighting over how to raise and allocate funding.

The draft budget notably proposed cuts to farm support and cohesion monies used to help newer members come up to EU standards, while offering new funding for economic modernisation and high-tech.

Brussels in December triggered Article 7 of the EU treaty over what it termed “systemic threats” to the independence of the Polish judiciary from the government – a move that could lead to never-before-used sanctions.

EU Consumer Affairs “Commissioner (Věra) Jourová assured me that these (budget) proposals are not directed against any specific state, there is no connection with Article 7,” Czaputowicz told PAP.