BUDAPEST - Hungary and Poland insisted there could be no rule of law conditions to access the European Union's multiannual budget and recovery fund unless the EU changes its founding treaty, digging in their heels as the bloc seeks to unwind the deadlock. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday his country would have Poland's backing in the continued row over the pair's recent blocking of the 1.8 trillion euros worth of EU funds vital to restart the economies of the 27 member states. The veto decision by Poland and Hungary, both beneficiaries of the budget and the recovery plan, is likely to delay hundreds of billions of euros in funds just as the 27-nation bloc is facing a second wave of COVID-19 and a double-dip recession. Resolving the issue is in the interest of Poland and Hungary, which would receive some of the highest amounts per capita from the EU. Both badly need the funds to help their economies overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This debate cannot be solved with money," Orban, standing alongside Poland's premier Mateusz Morawiecki, said in a press statement in Budapest. "Those who conflate these two issues (rule of law and crisis funding) are irresponsible as at a time of crisis rapid decisions are needed to aid the economy." The crisis compounds an already thorny relationship between Brussels and its two rogue members, which have been accused of eroding democratic standards 30 years after shaking off their Soviet overlords. Both countries are under EU investigation for undermining the independence of courts, media and non-governmental organisations. The premiers also issued a joint statement which emphasised they would have each other's backs in upcoming negotiations. They proposed a "two-track process" to facilitate the adoption of the financial package, saying it should be discussed in the European Council "whether a link between the Rule of Law and the financial interests of the Union should be established". Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki repeated the veto was a real weapon. "The use of veto today is the base scenario that we discussed in order to actually change the bad dynamics that have recently been imposed," Morawiecki said. REUTERS
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