Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen has given the annual state of the union address to MEPs at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg. The speech comes as the EU Commission faces a row with Hungary and Poland over the rule of law and “European values”. The EU leader warned MEPs over “worrying developments in certain member states” in regard to the rule of law and warned that Brussels is “determined” to enforce the values of the bloc. She promised: “We will never waiver in that determination.”
One European affairs expert saw this as a veiled response to Hungary and Poland. They told Euronews: “Von der Leyen herself is showing their claws.
“The strategy they adopted last summer…was basically to get a messy compromise on the governance and rule of law mechanism.
“So to kick start the train, get the budget through, get the recovery funds set up.
“But now we are at a stage where as we know the money to Poland and Hungary ain’t going to flow.”
In her 2020 speech, Ms Von de Leyen spoke about the need for EU members to respect democratic values and did not mention Poland or Hungary by name. But, since that address, additional terms have been added to cash grants from the EU’s pandemic fund.
Hungary and Poland are currently at odds with the EU Commission over issues ranging from LGBT rights to press freedoms.
Renew Group leader Dacian Ciolos has slammed Ms von der Leyen in the EU Parliament over her inability to prevent attacks on European values by Poland and Hungary’s “illiberal” leaders.
On Wednesday, Mr Ciolos said: “Achievements were often forced on us by events and on issues that solely depend on will alone. I don’t see you producing results.
“All too often you’re engaging in diplomacy with Council instead of policymaking with the European Parliament.
“Take for example European values which are the foundation of our European Union.
“Pretty much everywhere in Europe, we are seeing outbreaks of illiberalism.
“These outbreaks of illiberalism need to be out before the fire spreads.
“That is your responsibility and you have the means to do so. For the moment I hear your words but I don’t see your deeds.
“I don’t see you using the rule of law protection mechanism that the European Parliament has called for in order to protect our budget and stop financing these illiberal acts in Europe.
“You have to find the political courage to make use of this mechanism, that’s why we have adopted it, it’s been enforced for nearly a year now and you haven’t even used it.”