The European Union's top court should dismiss Hungary and Poland's legal challenge to a new tool aimed at cutting cash payments to member states that violate the bloc's rules on democracy, according to a legal opinion released on December 2.
European Court of Justice (ECJ) Advocate-General Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona said the policing mechanism was not incompatible with EU laws, a point that had been argued by Warsaw and Budapest.
According to Sanchez-Bordona, the mechanism resembles other financial and legal tools "that exist in various areas of EU law."
While the opinion is not binding, the Luxembourg-based judges usually follow it when delivering their final ruling.
A court decision on the case is expected within the coming months.
Government officials in both Hungary and Poland rejected Sanchez-Bordona's opinion, with Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga saying that the rule-of-law mechanism "suffers from a number of obvious legal flaws which individually justify its annulment."
The bloc's executive in Brussels has long been at odds with the nationalist and Euroskeptic governments in Hungary and Poland over the rights of women, LGBT people, and migrants, as well as media freedom, courts, and academia.
The EU introduced the policing mechanism last year after critics accused the two governments of influencing their judiciaries in a sustained campaign to undermine rule-of-law standards in the bloc.
The bloc has yet to make use of the procedure, which would allow EU budget finances earmarked for member states to be cut if there was a risk funds could be misused as a result of violations of rule-of-law principles such as the separation of powers.
Both Hungary and Poland are large recipients of EU funds.