Poland PM compares EU to communist dictatorship in dramatic 'Polexit speech' in row that threatens to break up the bloc

POLAND'S Prime Minister has compared the European Union to the former communist dictatorship in a dramatic "Polexit speech" amid a growing row which threatens to break up to bloc.

Poland and Hungary’s leaders are embroiled in a bitter row with the EU after vetoing its budget plans over a clause that makes access to funding conditional on respecting the rule of law and European values.

The two eastern European countries have accused the EU of "blackmail" in its plans to make access to cash for post-Covid recovery dependent on what they say is "unequal treatment of states".

The countries have vetoed the EU’s €1.1 trillion 2021-2027 budget and a €750 billion pandemic recovery fund over the clause.

In a debate on Wednesday night, Mateusz Morawiecki told Polish MPs that the EU was run by a "eurocrat" oligarchy which acts in the interests in nations such as Germany and France.

Morawiecki, 52, likened the EU's approach to the dictatorship Poland had "known well" during its decades under the communist regime, The Times reports.

The leader said Poland would not accept being "scolded like a child" and accused the EU of trying to bully weaker members of the bloc.

"Without this principle of legal certainty, the EU is a mechanism for making arbitrary decisions by eurocrats, and de facto by the European oligarchy, sometimes by a few stronger countries just to dominate the weaker ones. And we do not agree to this," he told MPs.

Referring to the idea of Poland leaving the EU, the pro-European Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper described the speech as "Morawiecki’s first Polexit speech".

The Polish parliament passed a resolution on Thursday backing the governments plan to veto the EU budget if it included the rule-of-law condition.

The resolution calls it unacceptable and inconsistent with the EU treaty to apply different standards to different members.

Morawiecki told parliament: "If our partners do not understand that we do not agree to unequal treatment of states… then we will really use that veto in the end.

"The EU must be built on a foundation of law and legal certainty… without this principle of legal certainty, the EU is a mechanism of arbitrary decision-making by Eurocrats and de facto by the European oligarchy."

The Polish and Hungarian veto is likely to delay hundreds of billions of euros in EU funds at a time when the 27-nation bloc is grappling with a second wave of the coronavirus.

The deal for the budget and recovery fund looked well on track to enter into force in January until Hungary and Poland vetoed it this week. 

"It is in the interest of everyone that we move quickly on this. People's jobs depend on this," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said.

"Our economic recovery depends on this. All that is being asked of member states is to respect the treaties they have signed and ratified. That's it."

The EU must be built on a foundation of law and legal certainty."

The rule of law issue is sensitive for both countries.

Poland is already under an EU investigative procedure over its efforts to trim the independence of the judiciary, while Hungary is also under investigation for an erosion of democratic norms, such as press freedom, under Orban's rule.

Both countries claim to the rule of law clause will be used as an "ideological weapon" to punish them.

Krzysztof Szczerski, the Polish president's chief of staff, said his country had the right within the European policy framework to refuse to agree to "what is wrong".

"We have the right to seek and demand a new compromise," he told public broadcaster TVP Info.

Morawiecki and Hungary's Viktor Orban are frequent scourges of Brussels, with anti-EU rhetoric rife in both their governments despite Hungary and Poland being the biggest receivers of bloc spending.

Orban said his rejection of the budget plans were linked to his continued opposition to mass immigration into the EU.

"Once this proposal gets adopted, there will be no more obstacles to tying member states’ share of common funds to supporting migration and use financial means to blackmail countries which oppose migration," Orban said in a statement published by state news agency MTI.

Although the budget and recovery package do not have any specific clauses about immigration, which Orban has long opposed as a threat to national and European identity and culture, analysts say his comments will boost his popularity among Hungarian voters.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa is backing the two countries' objections.

Responding to the row, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "This is of course a very serious problem, which we have to solve.

"We want to work, we want to sound out all options that would be possible and we are still at the very beginning."

Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban told AFP: "Blocking the adoption of a decision on the recovery plan negatively affects the whole EU, including the citizens of Hungary and Poland."

The plan to tie EU funds to the rule of law, strongly defended by the European Parliament and most member states, has the votes to be approved by a qualified majority of members.

During the 16-minute video summit on Thursday, European Council president Charles Michel, who chaired the meeting, acknowledged it would be a tall order to break the stalemate.

But he said he will join Merkel in looking for solutions with all the parties involved before next month's summit.

"The European Union's magic is its ability to find solutions even when one believes it's impossible," Michel said.

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