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EU budget sets up clash with Poland and Hungary

EU budget sets up clash with Poland and Hungary

The European Union unveils plans Wednesday for its first post-Brexit multi-year budget facing a looming clash with Poland and Hungary over a proposal to link funds to respect for the rule of law.

Warsaw and Budapest, locked in battle with Brussels over democratic standards and their refusal to accept refugees, oppose any attempt to impose conditions on the billions in funds they get from the bloc.

The one-trillion-euro-plus (SGD$1.6 trillion) budget covering 2021 to 2027 is being unveiled by the European Commission after months of difficult consultations with the 27 countries that will remain in the EU after Britain leaves.

EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, who has drawn up the plans, says a mix of cuts and more money from member states is needed to fill a 12 to 14 billion euro gap left by Brexit next year.

But that risks leaving no one happy, from French farmers angered by plans to slash farm funds, to a number of national governments which point-blank refuse to pay more.

Attempts by Brussels to push through the budget before the next European Parliament elections in May 2019 have also met a cool response.

EU states say it is “impossible” given the rifts between east, west, north and south, with countries anxious not to put their hands in their pockets at a time when populism is on the march.

“These negotiations normally take two years,” a diplomatic source told AFP, pointing out that they were likely to be even more complex than for the 2014-2020 budget.

The loss of Britain deprives the EU of one of its biggest net contributor nations at a time when the bloc is trying to finance new areas such as defence and tackle migration issues.