EU funds for Hungary should continue to be withheld, the European Parliament concluded on Thursday. Press reports say there are still obstacles to an agreement between the Hungarian government and the European Commission.
The European Parliament has passed a resolution, calling on the European Council and Commission to go ahead with adopting the proposed rule of law conditionality measures to suspend EU cohesion funds.
The MEPs say that the 17 remedial measures negotiated by the Commission and Hungary are “not sufficient to address the existing systemic risk to the EU’s financial interests”, even if implemented fully, according to the European Parliament’s statement. They call on EU member states to adopt the proposed measures under the Conditionality Regulation in order to protect the EU budget against alleged breaches of the principles of the rule of law in Hungary and to lift them only after the Hungarian remedial measures have had a sustainable effect.
The resolution was passed on Thursday by 416 votes in favor, 124 against and 33 abstentions.
The MEPs call on the Commission and Council not to give in to the pressure Hungary is exerting on them by blocking crucial EU decisions, such as 18 billion euros in macro-financial aid to Ukraine and the global minimum corporate tax rate deal. Members of the Hungarian government have made it clear that they reject these proposals as a matter of principle.
In a statement, the delegation of the Hungarian governing Fidesz party called it shameful that “the Hungarian left-wing opposition MPs once again supported a text condemning Hungary, against the interests of the Hungarian people”. “The text adopted by the left is about nothing less than taking away the EU funds that are rightfully ours as political punishment from millions of Hungarians at any cost,” they wrote.
The background of the current resolution is that on 18 September 2022, the Commission proposed to freeze 7.5 billion euros in EU funds for Hungary, citing alleged corruption and public procurement concerns, after having triggered the rule of law conditionality mechanism against Hungary in April.
Since then, Hungary presented seventeen remedial measures, such as creating an anti-corruption task force and changes to its public procurement rules, to address the concerns. The Council has until 19 December to take a decision, by a qualified majority, based on a Commission proposal.
According to Politico’s newsletter on Thursday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday “took a historic decision to confront Viktor Orbán’s Hungarian government over chronic corruption and rule-of-law backsliding, by freezing up to 13.3 billion euros in transfers”.
Von der Leyen and her team have decided Orbán’s government has not fulfilled a set of self-imposed promises to tackle corruption by a deadline of November 19,
the newsletter adds. Brussels will therefore hold payments under the pandemic recovery fund (amounting to some 5.8 billion euros) as long as Budapest fails to fulfill these commitments, Politico writes, adding that in parallel, the Commission decided it will recommend freezing 7.5 billion euros from the regular EU budget.
Regional Development Minister Tibor Navracsics, however, said on Thursday that agreements could be signed by the end of the year to allow Hungary to access EU funds next year.
The European Commission’s decision could also further slow down the process of Hungary’s ratification of Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO. The Hungarian government said that ratification in December is realistic, until then the parliament is busy passing the laws needed to reach an agreement with Brussels.
Featured photo via the European Parliament