With well over a trillion dollars at stake, the next European Union budget has the potential either to strengthen a detente between Poland and Brussels, or become another issue dividing the bloc’s west and east. Further division would undermine Poland’s new prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, whose supposedly technocratic approach has held out the promise of better ties with the EU.
Last month, Poland’s minister for European affairs, Konrad Szymanski, called EU plans to link the bloc’s central budgetary payments to the rule of law in member states a “massive power grab.” Earlier in May, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, proposed a much-anticipated, long-term budget for the EU totaling roughly 1.279 trillion euros—or nearly $1.5 trillion—running from 2021 to 2027, which includes plans for a “strengthened link between EU funding and the rule of law.”
Despite having no reference to specific countries, the proposal was seen as squarely targeting Poland and Hungary, whose populist and nationalist governments have engaged in repeated spats with Brussels in recent years over everything from press freedom to logging. Poland and Hungary, among other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, have benefited hugely from EU funds, which have helped upgrade infrastructure and supported investment. Poland alone receives around 9 percent of the EU’s budget.