Merkel cautions EU: Talk to Poland, Hungary before cutting funds

German chancellor said Commission should 'wait' for decision of the highest EU court and called threats by MEPs 'a bit saddening.'

Merkel cautions EU: Talk to Poland, Hungary before cutting funds

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday urged the EU against rushing to halt funds to Poland and Hungary despite mounting pressure for the bloc to take action over democratic backsliding concerns in both countries.

The European Commission has been considering whether to suspend certain EU budget payments to the countries, using a recently acquired power meant to punish member states for breaching the rule of law. While the Commission has held off on using the new tool while it is challenged in court, many activists and MEPs want the Commission to take action now, citing ongoing allegations that Poland and Hungary are undermining their own democracies.

Merkel, the outgoing German leader, was speaking to reporters a day after a European Parliament committee threatened to take legal action against the Commission over its reluctance. And EU leaders are expected to discuss Poland’s rule-of-law crisis at a summit next week.

Merkel on Friday backed the high-level discussion but not the Parliament committee’s stance.

“I think it is now time to talk in-depth with the Polish government, how we can overcome the difficulties … We have big problems, but my advice is to solve them in talks, to find compromises,” Merkel said in Brussels following a meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

Merkel said she doesn’t agree with those who believe “political differences” should “always be resolved through court proceedings.” She added: “That’s why I’m a bit concerned about the large number of cases that are now being settled in court.”

The chancellor also criticized the European Parliament over its threat, saying: “From my point of view, I find it a bit saddening, if I may say so cautiously, when Parliament says that now we may have to sue the Commission. I don’t think that will lead to anything.”

The Polish government on Tuesday ratcheted up its rule-of-law battle with the EU by adopting a verdict from the country’s Constitutional Tribunal, which found that the Polish constitution has primacy over some EU law. Many saw the ruling as questioning the treaties undergirding the EU itself.

Merkel said that the EU’s rule-of-law mechanism, which was negotiated under last year’s German presidency of the Council of the EU, had required “a great willingness to compromise on all sides.” Part of that compromise, she stressed, was that Poland and Hungary had the right to go to the Court of Justice of the European Union and “ask whether this directive is in line with European law,” which the two countries have done. The Commission has been waiting to deploy the mechanism until the court challenges are settled.

Merkel warned against rushing to activate the mechanism before the court had ruled on the issue. “I think we can wait for this decision of the European Court of Justice now,” she said.

She also stressed the need for EU countries to remain united on difficult questions, recalling that “the exit of the United Kingdom was a great sadness” for her.

In addition to the rule-of-law mechanism, the Commission is also withholding coronavirus recovery fund payments to Poland and Hungary over rule-of-law concerns. Merkel did not directly refer on Friday to the potential withholding of those payments.

De Croo said he was “on the same page” as Merkel when it comes to the rule of law. “This could become a big issue, but you could prevent it from becoming a big issue if you engage,” he said. “I think that just criticizing and finger-pointing from the outside is not going to lead us anywhere, so we need to engage and we need to understand what the next steps [by Poland] will be.”

Source : Politico EU More   

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David Amess killing raises questions about MPs’ safety

Home Secretary Priti Patel said questions are 'rightly being asked' about the safety of lawmakers.

David Amess killing raises questions about MPs’ safety

LONDON — The killing of British MP David Amess has raised immediate questions about the safety of MPs.

The long-serving Conservative representative for Southend West was stabbed at a drop-in meeting in his constituency on Friday. These so-called surgeries are commonplace in Britain, and see MPs open their doors to hear voters’ concerns. Usually, they are accompanied only by their office staff.

It is not the first time a parliamentarian has been attacked while carrying out this part of their duties. 

Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in Batley and Spen by a far-right extremist during the 2016 Brexit campaign. In 2010, Labour’s Stephen Timms survived after being stabbed twice during a surgery in West Ham. And in 2000, Andy Pennington died after being stabbed trying to protect his boss, the Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones. 

Amess himself had lamented the need for extra security in the wake of Cox’s death, writing in his memoir: “These increasing attacks have rather spoilt the great British tradition of the people openly meeting their elected politicians.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said questions are “rightly being asked” about the safety of MPs following Amess’ death and vowed to “provide updates in due course.”

House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle acknowledged “in the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken” but said the immediate focus should be on supporting Amess’ loved ones.

As speaker, Hoyle has a special duty to liaise with police about MP’s safety. Hoyle was also chairing business in the Commons chamber when police officer Keith Palmer was killed in a terrorist attack on parliament in 2017.

Father of the House Peter Bottomley, the longest-serving MP, issued a statement in which he said: “This shouldn’t happen but it has happened.”

Addressing the question of whether MPs should have better protection, Bottomley said, “we come in the middle of the pact — the most vulnerable are mental health workers, clergy, police, health service staff, shop keepers and public transport workers.”

As key workers expect to go on serving the public, he said, “so do we as MPs,” and “as we continue to do our duties, we may need to be careful.”

Brendan Cox, Jo Cox’s husband, tweeted shortly before the news that Amess had died: “Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself. There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.”

Matt Western, a Labour MP, tweeted: “No one should be attacked like this. Has society not learned anything from the Jo Cox tragedy?”

MPs are expected to pay tribute to Amess and James Brokenshire, a former Cabinet minister who died of cancer last week, when the Commons sits on Monday.

Source : Politico EU More   

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