The time is approaching when Europe will begin allocating funds to help rebuild national economies affected by the covid-19 pandemic.
An EU summit was devoted to this topic in July. One of its results was an agreement to link payments to the recipient states to their fulfillment of core European values. We are talking about the principles of democracy and compliance with the standards of the rule of law.
About a week ago, the European Commission published a report on the rule of law in the EU (https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/2020-rule-law-report-communication-and-country-chapters_en). The document again criticized Hungary and Poland. They are accused of high levels of corruption, problems with freedom of speech and non-compliance of the judiciary with European standards.
Warsaw and Budapest responded by announcing the establishment of an institute to monitor the rule of law in the European Union (https://www.rt.com/news/501930-hungary-poland-institute-eu-attacks/).
In addition, the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán accused the Deputy President of the European Commission Vera Yurova of violating European values. She, by the way, is one of the authors of the report. Orbán demanded the resignation of the official for calling Hungary a "sick democracy."
At present, Poland and Hungary have a rather comfortable position in the European Union. The two Eastern European countries receive an order of magnitude more funding than their neighbors in the region. At the same time, Warsaw and Budapest have a fairly independent political line. Being members of the EU, countries first and foremost ensure that national interests are respected in determining the direction of their policies.
And the "democratic" European Union can’t force them to comply with their demands. Warsaw and Budapest have long been criticized for failing to meet European democratic standards. And that's all. Brussels has ways to force Hungary and Poland to submit. Theoretically. But in practice it is very difficult to apply such procedures and they require a very high level of unity in the block. Which is currently unavailable.
A few days ago, Germany's presidency of the EU Council drafted a decree imposing economic sanctions for breaches of the rule of law. The document stipulates the need for direct confirmation of violations. The published report of the European Commission may well be such.
Now Poland and Hungary may actually lose some European subsidies. And such prospects certainly do not please the eastern states. However, statements about the establishment of its own institution to monitor the rule of law in the European Union may indicate the intention of Warsaw and Budapest to resist the EU's coercive policy.
At present, the economies of Poland and Hungary are quite stable and have been growing over the last decade. Countries will be able to survive without European funding. So in the case of deprivation of subsidies, the question of the possibility of their withdrawal from the EU may arise again.
The independence of Hungary and Poland undermines the authority of the European Union. And pushes to the introduction of restrictions. But if the threats turn from paper to reality, the consequences are difficult to predict.