Hungary is ready to strike a compromise with Brussels to end the long-standing impasse that has blocked the country’s access to the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund, said Tibor Navracsics, the minister in charge of regional development and EU funds.
Hungary initially requested €7.2 billion in grants from the EU’s €750-billion coronavirus recovery fund. Additionally, due to several negative economic factors (such as disrupted supply chains, the war in Ukraine, sanctions against Russia, and soaring inflation), the Hungarian government also asked for low-interest loans to complement the package. The country is entitled to request up to €9.6 billion in loans.
However, the commission has not yet approved the money over its rule of law and corruption concerns. (Meanwhile, the Hungarian government claims the European Commission is blocking funds over the country’s LGBT policies and a host of other ideologically motivated concerns).
Two weeks ago, Brussels gave the green light to Poland’s plan, which was blocked for more than a year over the country’s controversial judicial reforms. The decision left Hungary the only EU member state without an approved recovery plan.
“I am confident that this change, meaning my new ministerial appointment, could help give new impetus to the negotiations,” – the minister, a former EU Commissioner, told Euronews during a break in the talks in Brussels.
“Since Hungary is the last EU Member State that doesn’t have an agreement with the European Commission on a national recovery plan, our goal is to speed up the negotiations as much as possible so that we can sign this deal by the end of the year,” Navracsics added.
The minister also said that behind-the-scenes negotiations with Brussels have yielded “pretty good solutions” at a technical level, adding that suggestions that are acceptable to the committee’s experts have been made to address corruption concerns in public procurements.
Navracsics also mentioned specific examples: the government promises to reduce the proportion of single-bidder tenders in public procurement year by year, and to open up legal remedies, which will make the procedures and their remedies more verifiable.
Beyond the conceptual issues, a number of minor technical changes are being negotiated. The minister reported that the committee had typically expressed concerns over these small details.
If Hungary fails to agree on the recovery funds by the end of the year, up to 70% of the money could be lost, but minister Navracsics is confident that an agreement will be reached at a political level, beyond the technical solutions, as it is in the EU’s interest that all member states benefit from these funds.
Featured photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI