Linking the distribution of EU funds to a country's respect for rule of law is a "red line" in negotiations to approve the bloc's next budget and coronavirus recovery fund, MEP Manfred Weber has told Euronews in an exclusive interview.
European leaders reached an agreement on the EU's €1.8 trillion budget after a marathon summit back in July.
But, before any funds can be allocated, MEPs' consent is needed.
The European Parliament (EP) is currently locked in negotiations with the European Council — which represents leaders from each EU country — but little progress has been made.
As well as demands over the rule of law, MEPs want to increase the amount of money for EU projects, like on climate and research and innovation.
"We are ready for a compromise," said Weber, who leads the European People's Party, the largest grouping in the EP.
"But another thing is also clear. We cannot spend the money without respect towards fundamental principles like the freedom of media or the independence of our judiciary.
"They are fundamental principles and that is why we need this rule of law mechanism. A binding legislative rule of law mechanism for the EU.
"That is for the European Parliament a red line."
Some MEPs are taking things a step further though and digging their heels in.
Pierre Larrouturou, a French socialist MEP, is on hunger strike and explained to Euronews that it is the only way to get his message across that more funding is needed.
"We want a larger budget to avoid a recession; to help hospitals in all our countries; to save the climate, insulate homes, provide public transport, help farmers. we need more money," he said.
"And at the same time, we have the gilets jaunes, who are tired of people taxing them. The parliament's solution is to find other resources. This could be a carbon tax at the borders."
On Wednesday, the EU's national governments rejected MEPs' latest proposal over the size of the budget.