December 6, 2020

WARSAW (Reuters) – Nobody other than the prime minister should communicate Poland’s position on its European Union budget veto, the president’s chief of staff said in an interview published on Sunday, amid conflicting signals from members of government on the issue.

Poland and Hungary are blocking the EU’s 1.8 trillion euro 2021-2027 budget and recovery fund over a proposal to link funds to respect for the rule of law, a dispute which threatens the stability of Poland’s ruling coalition.

Both countries, as net beneficiaries of EU funds, also risk losing money as a result of the dispute.

Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said on Thursday that Poland would be ready to drop its veto if EU leaders endorsed an explanatory declaration on the link between EU funds and the rule of law, but the next day Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the country’s position had not changed.

“In a situation of tense negotiations like we are in today, announcements on the negotiations must come from a single source. This source is Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki,” the president’s chief of staff Krzysztof Szczerski told state-run news agency PAP.

“No other proposal made by anyone else should now have a place.”

The dispute is set to come to a head next week, with the deadline for agreeing on the 2021 budget falling on Monday, and an EU summit taking place three days later.

The possibility of compromise raised by Gowin, leader of Accord, a centrist, junior coalition partner in the ruling United Right coalition was in stark contrast to the uncompromising position set out by the other junior coalition partner, United Right, led by Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro.

Ziobro has warned against being a “softie” in negotiations with the EU and has said that anything other than a veto would result in a loss of confidence in Morawiecki, a member of Law and Justice (PiS), the largest member of the ruling coalition.

($1 = 0.8251 euros)

(Reporting by Alan Charlish; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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