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Budapest and Warsaw protest their governments' budget veto by lighting monuments EU-blue

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The Palace of Culture in Warsaw illuminated in blue on December 9, 2020.
The Palace of Culture in Warsaw illuminated in blue on December 9, 2020.   -   Copyright  Credit: City of Warsaw, um.warszawa.pl
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Monuments in Warsaw and Budapest will be lighted blue on Wednesday evening to protest the Polish and Hungarian government' decision to veto the European Union's budget over a rule of law conditionality.

"The Polish and Hungarian capitals, Budapest and Warsaw, have one voice," the mayor of the Hungarian capital, Karacsony Gergely, wrote on Facebook. "We say no to veto, but we say yes to European values."

A lengyel és a magyar fővárosnak, Budapestnek és Varsónak egy a hangja: mi Európában maradunk, nem hagyjuk magunkat...

Posted by Karácsony Gergely on Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Budapest's Statue of Liberty and Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science are to be lighted EU-blue for three days starting on Wednesday. Several other Polish cities are also taking part in the event.

"This is how we want to emphasise how much we feel part of the European Union," Warsaw mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski, wrote on Facebook.

"We hope that our symbolic protest will lead the government to change their position and to overturn its veto (...) We don't agree that in the name of intra-partisan games, in the name of some ridiculous bidding of right-wing politicians, about who is more anti-EU, the welfare of millions of Poles is on the line," he added.

Unlike the governments, which are ruled by conservative parties — the Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland and Fidesz in Hungary — the capital cities are helmed by liberal opposition politicians.

A €1.8 trillion veto

The protest is to start hours after Polish President Andrzej Duda announced that a preliminary agreement over the EU budget has been struck with Germany — potentially putting an end to a three-week-long deadlock — but providing no detail as to what it entails.

EU leaders were expected to approve the bloc's next seven-year-budget in mid-November. The €1.8 trillion package also include a €750 billion recovery fund to kickstart economies deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Poland and Hungary vetoed the package because of a rule of law conditionality which would see EU funds cut for member states deemed to be backsliding on core European values including press freedom and the independence of the judiciary.

Both Poland and Hungary have been criticised by Brussels for reforms weakening the judiciary and media independence, or for their treatment of migrants. Article 7 proceedings — the EU's disciplinary clause — have been launched against them.

The two countries have branded the new rule of law mechanism as "political blackmail" and part of an unfair ideological battle being waged by Brussels.

Poles and Hungarians disagree

But even in their respective countries, their fight against Brussels is unpopular.

A survey for the EU Parliament carried out by pollster Kantar between late September and mid-October found that more than three out of four respondents agree that EU funds should be made conditional upon the national government's implementation of the rule of law and of Democratic values.

In both Poland and Hungary, 72 per cent of respondents affirmed so.

aHang Hungary and Poland's Akcja Demokracja, two civil movement groups, have also collected some 300,000 messages of support for the rule of law conditionality.

"It's been unconditional EU funding that kept (Hungarian prime Minister Viktor) Orban and (Polish Prime Minister Mateusz) Morawecki alive and now it's time the EU comes out in support fo the Polish and Hungarian citizens who have been fighting so hard," Piotr Cykowski, Akcja Demokracja's spokesperson, said in a statement.

"If EU leaders succumb now, then this will only boost Orban and Morawecki's position against the rule of law and pave the way for more autocratic leaders who will want to weaken Europe," he added.