EU fury: Swedes question bloc’s inaction over Poland and Hungary – ‘There is frustration’

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The EU was embroiled in a tense standoff over its budget late last year after Hungary and Poland vetoed the bloc’s coronavirus recovery fund. Leaders pushed for a rule of law mechanism, designed to penalise countries whose governments had undermined democracy. But because the recovery fund needed unanimous support, Hungary and Poland were able to block the package. After days of intense negotiations, a compromise was eventually reached, meaning the £1.6trillion of stimulus funding can now be distributed to the EU27.

But the resolution didn’t please everybody, as expert on Swedish politics, Mikael Sundstrom told

He said that some Swedes are frustrated with a “lack of action” from Brussels over Hungary and Poland’s contravention of the rule of law.

Mr Sundstrom said: “There is a frustration that the EU, particularly among the elites, less the average voter – they would care about the fact we have to pay more Swedish krona into the EU.

“This is the main leverage for the anti-EU people.

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“When it comes to Hungary and Poland, Poland is a neighbour that concerns Swedes – the main concern is why can’t the EU do anything more powerful to keep them in check.

“Why can’t the EU do more to uphold liberal democratic rules in these countries.”

Mr Sundstrom added that there are also concerns the rise of the Sweden Democrats – a far-right eurosceptic party – could bring the illiberal politics of Hungary and Poland to Stockholm.

He continued: “The EU is set up in a way where they don’t have enough levers to work with, but it will be the system in the end that is problematic.

“The EU was set up in a way where we should have consensus – but when one or two countries don’t follow suit, there are no levers to work with, so it’s hard.”

The EU’s budget resolution also angered opposition figures in Budapest and Warsaw.

A joint statement from the Hungarian citizens’ organisation aHang and Polish citizens’ movement Akcja Demokracja expressed disappointment.

They said: “Today’s agreement is a political decision to push through the budget and sadly, the rule of law mechanism has been sacrificed. It’s almost toothless now.”

But one Hungarian MEP warned of even more severe consequences.

Katalin Cseh, a Hungarian centrist, told the Financial Times earlier this month: “We tried to appease the autocrats and it’s not working.

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“A government can be destroying the EU from the inside and still getting billions to enrich their own circles.

“If we do not do something now, it will threaten the stability of the union.”

Poland’s membership has been questioned by many from within the country after concerns were raised about the rhetoric being used by leaders in Warsaw.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has branded the EU an “imaginary community of little consequence for us”, while Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki recently warned that the bloc risks becoming an “oligarchy”.

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