The drama escalated against a pandemic that mobilized the European Union on an unprecedented scale – Member States had difficulty agreeing in July to borrow € 750 billion together, which they would share in subsidies and loans according to how the crisis hit their economies. Together with the seven-year budget, an unprecedented amount of EUR 1.82 trillion is on the table – so it is no wonder that the emphasis is on sound management from the outset. That is, the fact that any fraud or embezzlement will be detected and punished, which presupposes a perfectly functioning judiciary and other control mechanisms.
However, the governments of Hungary and Poland think that the possibility of punishment is directed only against them. They claim that they have nothing against the protection of the rule of law, which they allegedly cultivate perfectly at home, but against the way in which cross compliance is to be applied. This week, however, both Orbán and Morawiecki slid rapidly to demagogic rhetoric, comparing the EU to the Soviet Union, or communist conditions. No wonder there was no desire to argue around the virtual round table.
So where to get out of the stalemate at a time when Europe is experiencing a second wave of contagion and urgently needs the promised financial injection? Is it possible to rely on the art of negotiation, prestige and the influence of Chancellor Angela Merkel? The historic response to the effects of the pandemic was supposed to be the culmination of the German EU presidency, and the pressure on Poland and Hungary will now be enormous. But Morawiecki and Orbán have said so much that it will not be easy for them to back down, because of domestic public opinion. On the other hand, they may do it if they realize that most will not back down and that they could really lose money.