Hungarian Opinion: Weeklies on the EU Payments Deal

  • 20 Dec 2022 8:28 AM
  • BudaPost
Hungarian Opinion: Weeklies on the EU Payments Deal
A pro-government commentator hopes that by next spring EU decision-makers will convince themselves that Hungary has fulfilled the rule of law conditions set by the European Commission.

Opposition-leaning columnists, on the other hand, welcome the decision to keep Hungary under close watch.

In Mandiner, Gergely Dobozi admits that the sum of EU transfers frozen by the European Council is significant but reminds his readers that the money is not lost – and will be released when Hungary fulfils the conditions agreed upon with the European Commission.

The rule-of-law conditionality mechanism remains in force, he adds, which means that further payments can be suspended at any time for such reasons. Nevertheless, Dobozi writes, a series of new regulations will come into effect in March next year and by that time decision-makers can convince themselves that the integrity of public procurements in Hungary will have been bolstered. Similar expectations should be addressed to other member countries as well, he remarks.

By contrast, Magyar Narancs interprets the decision of the European Council as a knockout blow against the Hungarian government. Hungary, the editors write in their front-page comment, didn’t manage to line up sufficient allies to exonerate her from the rule-of-law conditionality system.

Neither French President Macron nor the governments of Poland or Italy came to Hungary’s rescue –not to speak of the leaders of Germany or Spain, Magyar Narancs writes. In their concluding line, the editors add that Prime Minister Orbán was ‘tricked by the European Commission and knocked out by the European Union’.

In a similar vein in Heti Világgazdaság, Ibolya Jakus believes that the Hungarian Prime Minister was defeated in Brussels. In her front-page editorial, she describes the Prime Minister’s tactics during the talks as a series of blackmailing moves, as Hungary threatened to veto the collective loan to be taken up by the European Union to help Ukraine and the new global minimum corporate tax proposed by the United States.

In the end, she writes, ‘Don Veto’ had to give in, but in exchange, he gained time to fulfil the anticorruption conditions set by the European Union. Meanwhile, Jakus remarks, the Prime Minister was handed a good propaganda tool by those MEPs who were found guilty of corruption.

In Élet és Irodalom, Zoltán Kovács dismisses the argument that accusing Hungary of corruption is perfidious, as long as prominent European parliamentarians stand accused of being bribed by Qatar.

Eva Kaili, the deputy speaker of the European Parliament is under investigation for bribery and has been demoted from her post, he argues, whereas Flórián Farkas, the pro-government former leader of the Roma Representative Body doesn’t even have to face prosecution, despite the fact that his organisation misspent over 1 billion Forints earmarked for job creation courses.

In Jelen, on the other hand, Tamás Fóti interprets the decision of the EU summit as a ‘Christmas gift’ to Prime Minister Orbán. As he sees it, the European Parliament managed to convince the Commission to make payments to Hungary dependent on the fulfilment of rule-of-law conditions, but neither the Commission nor the member countries wanted to disrupt EU payments to Hungary.

One reason he suspects behind that, is that a large part of those transfers is channelled back to the contributing countries, whose businesses win many procurement contracts based on EU payments.

In his customary weekly Magyar Hang editorial, Szabolcs Szerető believes that the tug-of-war between the EU and Hungary will continue, and EU leaders will not forget what he calls the blackmail used by Hungary to get most of the EU funds released.

Meanwhile, he dismisses opposition hopes that the Hungarian government can be overthrown from abroad, for instance, by a decision of the European Union to withhold future funds destined for Hungary.

On that last point, Demokrata’s Gábor Bencsik fully agrees with Szerető. He criticises opposition-minded intellectuals who despise their own parties for being unable to become a real challenge for the government. He especially condemns them for believing that the Hungarian government can only be overthrown by external forces.

In reality, he asserts, no one prevents the opposition from acting as an efficient check on the government, or from convincing the electorate that they could offer a better alternative. If they lack the talented leaders to perform that basic task of any opposition, Bencsik concludes, then something is wrong with them, rather than with Hungarian democracy.

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