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Polish leader vows to veto EU budget in face of 'blackmail'

FILE - In this Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 file photo, the leader of the Polish ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks to reporters in Warsaw, Poland. Jaroslaw Kaczynski is threatening to veto the European Unions economic recovery plan and long-term budget if the bloc decides to link funding to respect for rule of law. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, also a deputy prime minister, said in remarks published Tuesday Oct. 13, 2020, he vowed to defend Polands interests and sovereignty at all costs.  (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 file photo, the leader of the Polish ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks to reporters in Warsaw, Poland. Jaroslaw Kaczynski is threatening to veto the European Unions economic recovery plan and long-term budget if the bloc decides to link funding to respect for rule of law. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, also a deputy prime minister, said in remarks published Tuesday Oct. 13, 2020, he vowed to defend Polands interests and sovereignty at all costs. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WARSAW – Poland's ruling party leader is threatening to veto the European Union's economic recovery plan and long-term budget if the bloc decides to link funding to respect for rule of law,

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the powerful head of the Law and Justice party and since recently a deputy prime minister, said Poland will do what it must in order to protect its own interests and national sovereignty.

“There will be a veto. If the threats and blackmail are maintained then we will firmly defend Poland’s vital interest,” Kaczynski was quoted as saying in an interview with Gazeta Polska, a pro-government daily. Parts of the interview were published online Tuesday.

Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister and former EU president, said Kaczynski's threat was harmful to his country on more than one level.

“Deputy Prime Minister Kaczynski announces that he is ready to block EU aid for Poland so that he can continue to violate the rule of law with impunity. And I thought that he could not surprise me anymore,” Tusk tweeted.

While EU leaders have agreed in principle on a 1.8 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) economic recovery package for the 2021-2027 budget period, they have yet to find common ground on how to distribute the money because many countries insist that allocations should be linked to respecting the EU’s rule of law standards.

Tying funding to respecting democratic standards would mark a blow to Poland and Hungary, both central European nations with right-wing governments that have eroded judicial independence, media freedom and other basics of a democratic system. Both have vowed to fight such a measure.

Poland has also come under major criticism from European partners recently for anti-LGBT rhetoric by its conservative president and other top figures from the ruling party.

Kaczynski and others insist they are trying to defend their conservative culture rooted in Catholicism from a foreign LGBT “ideology.”

In the interview published Tuesday, Kaczynski said: “We will defend our identity, our freedom and sovereignty at all costs. We will not allow ourselves to be terrorized with money.”