EU sees first probes under money for rule-of-law regulation in Sept-Oct

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The European Commission could in September or October start its first investigations into whether EU governments sufficiently respect the rule of law to qualify for EU budget and recovery funds, EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Thursday.

This is likely to be a blow to Poland and Hungary, both of which are under formal EU investigation over breaches of rule of law standards and which had hoped for a much longer delay in the application of the rules which could freeze billions for them.
The Commission has been under pressure to start applying a new regulation, in force since Jan. 1, that links access to EU money for governments to respecting the rule of law.But the Commission insisted it first wanted to prepare internal guidelines on how to apply the law, causing a delay that prompted the European Parliament to decide on Thursday to sue the Commission for inaction as guardian of EU rules.

The Commission is to have draft guidelines ready in two weeks, and finalise them, after consultations with the European Parliament and EU governments, by the "end of the summer".

"We will adopt the guidelines somewhere in autumn, probably at the end of September or in October," Hahn told reporters. "I would not exclude that we start the first action already at beginning of autumn to send what we call letters to potential member states," he said.
He said there were several countries on a list of potential candidates to be investigated over the misuse of EU funds, but would not disclose any names as the list was not final.
The eurosceptic nationalist governments in Poland and Hungary strongly opposed the new law when it was negotiated by the 27-nation bloc last year. They only accepted it under a threat that they would otherwise be excluded from the EU's 800 billion euro recovery fund of grants and cheap loans.

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