The European Union (EU) has agreed that all its member states must uphold democratic standards to access the EU’s billion-euro emergency Coronavirus (COVID-19) relief package and budget.
The continental block parliament and its 27 member-states agreed on Thursday to tie the bloc’s long-term budget access to a mechanism requiring countries to live up to Europe’s democratic standards.
This is even as the EU also agreed to impose sanctions on nations that fail to apply the rule of law.
According to a statement issued by the bloc on the pact, implementation could help unlock the bloc’s €1.1-trillion ($1.3 trillion) budget and another €750 billion in emergency Coronavirus (COVID-19) relief by the start of the year.
The European Council indicated that the agreed mechanism “allows to protect the EU budget where it is established that breaches of the principles of the rule of law in a member state affect or seriously risk affecting the sound financial management of the EU budget or the protection of the financial interests of the EU in a sufficiently direct way.”
According to the agreement, the European Commission, which is the EU’s executive arm responsible for ensuring bloc-wide laws, will first establish whether any fundamental principles have been violated before imposing sanctions for the breach of the pact
Commenting on the pact, Finnish EU lawmaker, Petri Sarvamaa, was quoted as saying that “for the first time, we have established a mechanism that enables the EU to stop funding governments that disrespect our values such as the rule of law.”
While the agreement is believed to be raising some concerns in Poland and Hungary, Germany, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, has described the pact as ‘important milestone’.
Specifically, Germany’s envoy to the EU, Michael Clauss, said the agreement represented “an important milestone” in efforts to finalizing the next long-term EU budget and recovery package.
“We have a historic €1.8-trillion financial package on the table. With the second wave of the pandemic hitting member states hard, there is no time to lose,” he added.
Despite the deal, negotiations are still expected to take place regarding details of allocations within the budget.