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Discussions surrounding the European Union's 2021-27 budget are intensifying, owing to many European policymakers' insistence that regional development funds be disbursed only to member states that are in compliance with EU rules.The proposal to attach new conditions to EU funding is directed at the populist governments of Poland and Hungary. But while these governments have certainly shown contempt for EU institutions, while ignoring the recommendations of the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, they are too clever to defy EU rules outright. Most vexing of all, though, is the fact that Poland and Hungary are, respectively, the largest and fourth-largest beneficiaries of EU funds.Among those opposed to more stringent conditions are not just the ruling parties in Poland and Hungary, but also those countries' opposition parties.Opposition politicians also argue that a suspension of EU funding would harm ordinary Hungarians and Poles, who should not be punished for the actions of their governments.Hungarian and Polish opposition leaders warn that suspending EU funds could backfire and bolster public support for anti-EU populists, who will be more than happy to play the victim.Opposition members who criticize the idea of suspending EU funds for populist governments may make public appeals to morality, but what they really want is efficiency.
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