Hungary’s government has received and reviewed the European Commission’s letter activating the so-called conditionality mechanism linking European Union funding to the rule of law, and sees no obstacle to signing the agreement on the recovery fund, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff said on Thursday.
Gulyás described the content of the EC’s letter as “fair,” but also underscored that the Orbán government does not consider the launching of the rule of law procedure justified.
There are issues on which the government is unwilling to compromise, an obligation dictated by the outcome of the recent parliamentary elections, Gergely Gulyás said at a regular press briefing. Those issues include the aim for Hungary to stay out of the war in Ukraine, its decision not to send weapons or soldiers to the neighboring country, and the position that Hungary will not allow the Hungarian people to be made to pay the price of war, he said.
In connection with the EC’s letter, Gulyás said the issues it raised were all issues that “we have been negotiating on with the Commission for months.”
“There is no issue on which we do not have a shared position or on which we couldn’t find a solution acceptable to both our government and the Commission,” Gulyás said.
In regard to the problems raised in the letter, all obstacles have been removed in the course of the recovery fund negotiations, Gulyás stressed. For our part, we are ready to sign an agreement on the recovery funds at any time, he added.
This issue cannot reach the point legally where Hungary loses money because of the EU procedure, Gulyás said. But anything can happen on political grounds, he added.
The government’s firm stance that reaching an agreement is without obstacles is not surprising, given that the fate of more than €7.2 billion (more than 2,500 billion forints), non-reimbursable grants under the EU recovery fund is on the line.
Brussels is withholding approval of Hungary’s recovery plan since last summer due to dissatisfaction with anti-corruption efforts in the country’s spending plan.
In addition, as we reported on Wednesday, Hungary is the first and so far only country against which the EU triggered the rule of law mechanism. The procedure could ultimately lead to further withholding of EU funds.
The European Commission sent a notification letter to the Hungarian government of the decision on Wednesday, after which the Prime Minister’s chief of staff reacted to the start of the procedure in a Facebook video.
All the government can say for now is that Hungarian voters made a clear decision in the April 3 general election, Gulyás said on Wednesday.
The people made it clear that Hungary needed to stay out of the war in Ukraine, that Hungarians should not be made to pay the price of war, and that protecting children from “any form of sexual propaganda” is a priority, he said.
“These issues are red lines for the government on which no concessions can be made,” Gulyás said.
Although Gulyás said that the Orbán government is being attacked for its pro-peace stance on the war in Ukraine, and for what the EU sees as an anti-LGBTQ referendum, the rule of law procedure has nothing to do with these issues.
Instead, Brussels claims that the risks of corruption and lack of transparency in public procurement, and lack of proper investigations into the use of EU funds in Hungary are the real reasons why this mechanism has been activated.
Featured photo by Tibor Illyés/MTI