EU says Poland, Hungary may wait until 2022 for pandemic cash

Poland and Hungary are unlikely to see a first instalment of billions of euros in EU pandemic cash this year, a top official warned on Tuesday.

The European Commission, responsible for allocating money from the bloc’s 800-billion-euro ($920-billion) pandemic recovery fund, has yet to unlock the cash for those two countries, as rows brew over their democratic credentials.

Hopes for a breakthrough rose when Poland was confronted by a crisis over migrants on its border with Belarus that saw a show of solidarity by Brussels for the government in Warsaw.

But EU vice president Valdis Dombrovskis said that the money is still being held up as the commission and the two countries still struggled to agree on terms of the payouts.

“While the work is ongoing, I would say that it’s unlikely that we’re able to finalise this work by the end of the year,” Dombrovskis told reporters.

“As always, what matters are movements of the substance… speed will depend on how fast they are able to make progress on the substance,” he added.

If the recovery plans are approved, Poland could get 36 billion euros in EU payouts, while Hungary can expect 7.2 billion euros in subsidies.

With regard to Poland, the EU executive is reluctant to sign off on the recovery plan as long as the right-wing government ignores European court rulings on upholding the independence of its judiciary.

Hungary is being asked to commit to anti-corruption reforms, as well as to provide better guarantees on the independence of the courts for businesses.