Germany hinges EU’s COVID-19 recovery funding on democratic values

BRUSSELS/BERLIN: Germany, set to take over the European Union's rotating presidency on Jul 1, will put the rule of law at the heart of the bloc's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, a policy note said in an apparent swipe at Poland and Hungary.

Germany will take the EU helm for six months as the 27 member states debate a mass stimulus programme to kickstart growth on the continent amid a series of feuds that could hold up the required unanimous agreement.

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Lines in the sand against making access to EU funds conditional on rule of law standards have already been drawn by Poland and Hungary, whose populist, eurosceptic governments have outraged other member states and rights groups by placing media, judges and academics under closer state control.

"The plan for recovery must be based on solidarity, cohesion and convergence … while fully respecting our values, rights, and the rule of law," said the note, seen by Reuters.

It was also signed by Slovenia and Portugal, which will take over the EU baton for six months each in 2021.

The 27 EU member states will first lock horns on Jun 19 over a recovery proposal by the bloc's executive to raise an unprecedented €750 billion worth of debt to top up spending from joint coffers to be worth €1.1 trillion between 2021 and 2027.

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Under the scheme, the executive European Commission could recommend suspending or withdrawing funds from a country flouting the rule of law, with a majority of EU states needed to block any such punishment.

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