EU court challenge mounted by Poland & Hungary over budget law amid bloc’s probe into alleged media crackdowns

Hungary and Poland have filed complaints with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over a new EU regulation allowing the 27-state bloc to withhold funding from member countries deemed to be bending the rule of law.

The legal challenges, filed by the two EU nations on Thursday, are a bid to slow down the application of the regulation until after the ECJ has ruled on the matter, which could take up to two years.

The EU could slash Poland and Hungary’s funding by tens of billions of euros if, as Brussels claims, the pair of eastern nations, which are both under EU investigation, are found to have undermined their respective courts and media.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has allegedly allowed his rich associates to buy up newspapers only to shut them down, while the Polish government has been accused of curbing the impact of independent outlets with new taxes.

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Announcing the legal challenge, Polish government spokesperson Piotr Mueller said in a statement on Thursday that the proposed EU regulation does “not have a legal basis” and it “interferes” with member states.

He said the EU should distribute funds using objective and specific measures, and warned of the “very serious danger” of a “politically-driven and potentially arbitrary” use of the regulation.

Hungary’s Justice Minister Judit Varga announced on Facebook that Budapest would join Warsaw’s legal challenge, saying: “We can’t keep that EU legislation in force, which seriously infringes legal certainty.”

On Thursday, members of the European Parliament called on the European Commission – the EU’s executive branch, in charge of enforcing EU legislation – to activate the rule of law mechanism, which came into force on January 1, 2021.

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MEPs threatened to use any means necessary against the Commission if it does not start enforcing the regulation, in order to prevent further damage to the EU’s budget and values.

Some lawmakers were angry at the EU commissioner for budget and administration, Johannes Hahn, who said that the guidelines for the new mechanism need to be completed before it is used, and that they should take into account the ECJ ruling.

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