The leaders of Hungary and Poland have vowed to maintain a united front and uphold their veto of the EU's budget and its massive pandemic relief fund.
They continue to oppose the mechanism that ties funding for countries to rule of law principles, arguing that the EU plan risks derailing the bloc.
The EU has proposed a mechanism linking the bloc’s €1.8 trillion budget, which includes a €750bn coronavirus recovery package, to its members' respect of the rule of law. This covers areas such as democratic values, human rights and the independence of the judiciary.
Prime ministers Viktor Orbán and Mateusz Morawiecki met in Budapest to discuss ways of persuading EU leaders to abandon the plan.
In a joint statement, they rejected any mechanism that would financially sanction member states for violating democratic standards.
They proposed a two-track solution to exit the impasse and free up the COVID-19 package. It involves limiting the conditions for allocating funds and putting the link to the rule of law to the European Council for approval — which if passed by EU leaders would then mean modifying EU treaties.
Last week the two countries vetoed the EU mechanism, effectively stalling progress on the implementation of the whole budget and rescue package, planned for January. They received support from Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa.
On Thursday (November 26), the Polish and Hungarian leaders continued their attack.
Viktor Orbán said the EU debate over the rule of law must not be tied to ways of overcoming the economic crisis. "Whoever links them is irresponsible, because the crisis needs fast economic decisions,” he told a news conference.
Hungary's leader said he was acting in his nation's interest by opposing the financial mechanism, saying it violated Hungary’s national values and sovereignty. The debate was not about the rule of law but about the "rule of the majority".
"This is extremely dangerous for Europe’s cohesion, it is a bad solution that threatens a breakup of Europe in the future," Morawiecki said.
The Polish prime minister argued that similar exclusive mechanisms could be used in the future against other countries, over other issues. With the veto "We are defending the unity of the union,” he added.
Euronews political editor Darren McCaffrey said the two leaders' stand cast doubt on an assertion earlier this week by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that a solution was in sight.
Several MEPs are accusing the Hungarian and Polish leaders of trying to blackmail the EU, and of putting the livelihoods of Europeans at risk, including in their own countries.
Last week the European Parliament said it would make "no concessions" to Hungary and Poland on the conditionality of EU funding to respect for the rule of law.
Under the new mechanism, individual EU countries could lose their veto and have funding cut if a majority of other member states back such a move.
EU leaders will discuss the matter at a European summit in December.
Watch the report from Leszel Kablak in Krakow in the video player above.