European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker delivers a speech at the Greek Parliament in Athens, April 26, 2018. (AFP / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS)
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The European Union will deploy a new financial weapon next week to try to rein in what Brussels sees as illiberal nationalism rising in the east of the bloc and threatening its democratic foundations.Net EU spending accounts for more than 4 percent of public expenditure in Poland and over 7 percent in Hungary, and this is a factor in solid public support for EU membership in the two ex-communist states.EU officials expect Poland to back down enough next month on reforms of its judiciary to avoid the Commission having to follow through on a threat to try to suspend its EU voting rights -- a compromise the EU executive believes will have been achieved through fear of penalties in the upcoming EU budget.Faced with the tricky task of defining when elected leaders are damaging democracy, the Commission has focused on economic regulation and frames moves to give governments influence over courts as undermining the EU's open internal market.
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