The new EU budget presented today by Commission President Jean Claude Juncker comes with a new caveat that funding, particularly cohesion funds that Member States use to fund infrastructural and development projects, will only be granted to Member States that can demonstrate compliance with rule of law.

An editorial in Le Monde this morning anticipated this initiative and interpreted it as a warning to Poland, Hungary and Malta: three countries with fundamental rule of law challenges raised by behaviour of politicians in government not in conformity with European standards.

The new policy would be attached to the budget planned for the period 2021-2027.

The Treaty gives some discretion to the European Commission to establish conditions for Member States to access the EU budget. This can include the suspension of funding which must follow a vote in the European Council made up of the Member States government and can be approved by a qualified majority.

The European Commission felt the need to introduce this qualification as it justifies charging tax-payers throughout the EU that have to pay into the fund that would then go to support countries with growing rule of law concerns. The Commission would not be able to justify countries not respecting fundamental EU values – such as rule of law and solidarity – and yet benefit from cohesion funds.