PARIS WEATHER

‘We will work relentlessly to find the solution’: EU’s Sefcovic on rule of law crisis

Issued on: 20/11/2020 – 21:34Modified: 20/11/2020 – 21:38

The past week has seen great highs and great lows for the European Union: highs in the shape of news that the first Covid-19 vaccines could get their initial approval by the end of the year – and lows in the shape of a burgeoning democratic crisis. This after Hungary and Poland vetoed the next €1.8 trillion budget package, in protest at a plan to make the transfer of EU funds to member states conditional on them respecting the rule of law. We get reaction from the EU Commission’s Vice-President Maros Sefcovic.

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European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic tells FRANCE 24: “If such large sums of money are going to be spent in the member states, then all taxpayers want to be sure that the money is spent in accordance with the rule of law, that enough anti-corruption measures are taken, and that we are supporting something that is good.”

Meanwhile, Brexit talks are still continuing – but are now hobbled after a member of the EU negotiation team was diagnosed with Covid-19. The Commissioner from Slovakia is optimistic for a deal in time for the end of the UK’s transition period on December 31: “If there is a political will, there is always a possibility. We are actually not that far from finding an agreement. There are these three outstanding agreements we have to resolve: level playing field, fisheries and governance.”

However, given that the UK government of Boris Johnson insisted it was prepared to break international law by going back on parts of the original Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the Commission Vice-President describes this as “an unfortunate step”, saying “there is a lot which has to be done on this front” – and insisting the existing dispute resolution mechanisms are sufficient to overcome any disagreements: “All the issues covered by the Internal Market Bill have been on the agenda of the Joint Committee and that is the only place we can resolve them.”

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet and Isabelle Romero

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