Daniel Freund

18. September 2022 Anti-Corruption

EU Commission wants to freeze 7.5 billion euros for Hungary: Too late, too little, too half-hearted

The EU Commission wants to freeze 7.5 billion euros for Hungary in the context of the ongoing rule of law conditionality procedure. This was announced by Commissioner Hahn in a press conference this morning. To be precise, 65% of the funds from three cohesion programmes are to be suspended. In addition, no more monies may flow to the so-called “Public Interest Foundations”, which are under the control of Orban and his cronies. According to estimates, this would amount to a cut of about 20% of the EU funds foreseen for Hungary under the current multi-annual budget.

The Commission’s proposal will now be forwarded to the Council of Finance Ministers (ECOFIN), which must take a vote within three months. Following negotiations with the Commission, the Hungarian government has already announced a package of 17 measures to address the EU’s rule of law concerns. Among other things, a new anti-corruption authority is to be created to ensure the proper use of EU funds in the future. 

Daniel Freund, Green negotiator for the rule of law conditionality mechanism in the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control, comments:

“What the EU Commission is selling as a success is less impressive at closer inspection. Ursula von der Leyen is falling far short of her possibilities. 80 percent of EU payments will continue to be paid to Hungary unhindered. 27 billion euros will thus continue to flow into Viktor Orban’s corrupt system. Hungary is no longer a democracy and von der Leyen’s move will not change that. With the rule of law mechanism, she has a strong instrument at her hands that she uses too late and far too cautiously.”

“It is fatal that Viktor Orban can still avert these sanctions before the end of the year with a few pseudo-reforms. The conditions that Ursula von der Leyen is setting are far too weak. In order to restore the rule of law in Hungary, a decisive stance is needed, not just a few improvements in Hungarian public procurement law. Viktor Orban has systematically destroyed democracy and the rule of law over the past twelve years. The EU Commission is not proposing a single measure that would make courts and public prosecutors independent again. Ursula von der Leyen is negligently giving away the strongest tool she has to protect the rule of law.”

“The ball is now in the court of the EU’s member states. They must not let Orban get away with it. No EU money must go to autocratic governments in the European Union.”

The details of the Commission’s proposal and the package of measures proposed by the Hungarian government are available at the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/about_the_european_commission/eu_budget/com_2022_485_1_en_act.pdf