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EU Holding Up Hungarian, Polish Pandemic Stimulus Funds Over 'Rule Of Law Concerns'

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis
European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis

Concerns about safeguarding the rule of law in Hungary and Poland are delaying the European Union's approval of pandemic stimulus plans that could free up tens of billions of euros in assistance, according to a top EU official.

The lingering debates concern the primacy of EU law in the Polish case and basic EU standards in Hungary's case, as other members scrutinize the plans before they are green-lighted.

There is around $29 billion in grants and $14 billion in favorable loans at stake in the Polish plan, and around $8 billion in grants on the line for Hungary.

Both Warsaw and Budapest have lashed out at the holdup as ideologically motivated and unconstitutional.

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said EU officials would closely watch an upcoming ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal, while they identified "rule-of-law challenges" that have dragged out the approval process for Hungary.

EU officials have said in the past that their objection in Hungary's case relates to the threat of misuse of funds, but Brussels has also been sharply critical this year of perceived clientelism among media and NGOs favoring allies of national populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Hungary's government has accused Brussels of unfairly blocking the pandemic stimulus funds over a new law to restrict young people's access to information about non-heterosexual lifestyles.

Both the Polish and Hungarian plans were submitted in May but have been extended by the EU executive branch beyond their expected two-month review to seek revisions from Warsaw and Budapest.

Based on reporting by dpa