Juncker rejects German proposal to tie EU cohesion funds to rule of law

June 2, 2017

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has rejected a German proposal which would tie the allocation of EU cohesion funds to member states’ adherence to democratic norms, human rights and rule-of-law concerns, reports Financial Times.

According to an FT article published Thursday, Juncker said at a conference in Berlin that predicating receipt of EU funds on adherence to rule-of-law principles would be “poison for the continent,” and added that “I am of the opinion that one should not do that.”

As the Budapest Beacon reported Tuesday, an internal German government document called for stricter criteria for the distribution of EU funds through the bloc’s “cohesion policy,” which provides funding to the union’s poorer countries to even out economic disparities. The German document proposed tying access to those funds to certain rule-of-law requirements, especially for poorer EU member states such as Hungary and Poland that have faced challenges integrating refugees and dealing with demographic problems.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo dismissed the German proposal Wednesday, saying that “proposals to withhold structural funds for selected member states are simply contradictory to EU treaties.” Poland is the biggest net recipient of EU funds in the 28-member bloc, and is set to receive more than EUR 100 billion of cohesion funds between 2014-2020.

Hungary, also a net recipient of EU funds, joins Poland as a potential target of the German proposal. The European Parliament voted on a resolution in mid-May calling for sanctions against Hungary over rule-of-law concerns, a move unprecedented in the European Union’s history. The triggering of Article 7 was the most powerful step taken by the EU in response to years of growing concern over democratic backsliding in the country.