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The EU must confront Hungary and Poland, even if it delays the budget

The conflict that came to a head on 16 November with Poland and Hungary on one side, and MEPs, the Commission and other member states on the other, has been a decade in the making. Once Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán was elected in 2010, and Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki gained power in 2017, the EU’s commitment to free speech and academic independence was bound to clash with these reactionary regimes. 

It was also a foregone conclusion that this would happen over the 2021-27 multiannual financial framework. The budget itself is not the sticking point—both Poland and Hungary’s representatives happily accepted a last-minute €4 billion increase to research funding. But it was the addition of a so-called conditionality mechanism, allowing the EU to turn off funding to countries that fail to respect the rule of law, that finally brought matters to a head. 

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