EC to Withhold Euro 20 Billion from Hungary - Until it "Fulfils All Requirements"

  • 18 Jan 2024 9:17 AM
  • Hungary Matters
EC to Withhold Euro 20 Billion from Hungary - Until it "Fulfils All Requirements"
While Hungary has fulfilled requirements on judicial reform, the EU will continue to withhold some 20 billion euros of cohesion funds until other concerns are addressed, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president said.

 Speaking in the European Parliament’s plenary debate on the state of the rule of law in Hungary, Von der Leyen said Hungarian legislation on judicial reform guaranteed judicial independence and curbed the danger of political interference.

“Hungary did what we asked,” she said. At the same time, resources frozen due to concerns over the rights of sexual minorities, academic freedom and asylum rights would be withheld until Hungary fulfilled those requirements, she added.

The EC president said that the EU had always aimed to foster changes in member states that improved the life of all Europeans. Meanwhile, Hungary has received pre-financing from the resources of the REPowerEU funds, earmarked for programmes aiding economic recovery.

REPowerEU funds are disbursed unconditionally to all member states, she noted. The EC will continue to monitor the use of the funds to protect the interests of the EU and its budget, she added.

Von der Leyen also touched on the situation in Ukraine, noting that in the span of months, Kyiv adopted new legislation on expanding the rights of ethnic minorities, developing the judiciary and on curbing the influence of oligarchs. She said those “significant results” showed Ukraine’s commitment to Europe, adding that Ukraine’s democratic institutions were fulfilling the “aspirations of their people as well as our recommendations”.

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said Belgium, which took over the EU’s rotating presidency on Jan 1, was concerned about the state of the rule of law in Europe. To avoid any further infringements, the Article 7 procedure against Hungary would be pursued even as the presidency engaged in dialogue with the Hungarian government, she said.

Maintaining the rule of law and introducing institutional reforms to protect the EU’s budget would be key to Hungary gaining access to EU funds, she added.

Finmin: Hungary Receives Another Euro 140 M in EU Funding

Hungary received 140 million euros transferred by Brussels on Wednesday in pre-financing grants under the EU’s Resilience and Recovery Facility (RRF), the finance minister said on Facebook. With this transfer, over the past week Hungary has received a total of 1.4 billion euros in unfrozen EU funding, Mihály Varga said.

At the end of December, 779.5 million euros were transferred in RRF funding and earlier this month another 445 million euros arrived as part of the EU 2021-2027 budget cycle, he said.

Kovács: Brussels 'Abusing EU Funds'

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has "admitted" that the EU has withheld funds from Hungary "with regard to LGBTQ rights and migration", the state secretary in charge of international communication said.

“Brussels is trying to blackmail us to accept their LGBTQ and migration rules,” Zoltán Kovács said on Facebook on Wednesday, suggesting that the EU was “abusing” its powers over community funds.

Kovács quoted von der Leyen as saying in the European Parliament earlier in the day that some 20 billion euros for Hungary would stay frozen due to issues around gay rights, the freedom of higher education, and concerns about refugee rights.

Kovács said it was “ironic” that gay rights and migration policy, as well as the freedom of higher education and research were national competencies … “areas in which the EU has no power whatsoever.”

The state secretary said the Hungarian people had backed the government’s position on both matters in two separate referendums. He said Hungary’s child protection law, “which Brussels calls the LGTBQ law is actually about the protection of our children”, while migration policy “is way beyond the red line”. “There will be no compromise over those two issues,” Kovács added.

Fidesz MEP Calls on EU to 'Pay Every Euro Cent' Hungary is Entitled to

Hungary must receive “every euro cent” it is entitled to “without further delay”, an MEP of ruling Fidesz said on Wednesday, adding that “ideological blackmail” was unacceptable.

Balázs Hidvéghi said at the European Parliament’s plenary session in a debate on the rule of law in Hungary that the EP wanted to suspend the country’s voting rights because they didn’t agree on important political matters.

This “is an absolute new low”, he said, adding: “that is a dictatorship.” Regarding Ukraine, Hidvéghi called for an immediate ceasefire and peace talks. Member states should support Ukraine independently from the EU’s budget, and not from a joint loan, he said, adding that Hungary was ready to contribute to such a facility from its own budget resources.

Fidesz MEP Ádám Kósa noted that according to the European Commission, Hungary has fulfilled all rule of law requirements regarding the judiciary, and warned that the EP had “no role in those issues”.

He also slammed the European leftist parties for a “revenge campaign” against Hungary solely because a Christian Democrat, civic government had won four consecutive elections there with a two-thirds support. “If MEPs indeed apply no double standards, they should stand up against violations of the law in Poland, to show they are truly concerned for the rule of law.”

Katalin Cseh, an MEP of opposition Momentum, said the EC was unaware of the “damage it has done by giving in to Viktor Orbán’s blackmail.”

She said the step had “invited not just Orbán, but every single aspiring European autocrat to follow the same old extortionist tactics.” Besides the judiciary reform praised by the EC, Hungary also adopted a Sovereignty Protection Act, which she said would hinder the work of international NGOs, gag free media and everyone who would “stand up against this regime”.

“The European Parliament will not stay silent; we will remain the only protector of democratic values among the EU institutions,” she said.

Márton Gyöngyösi, an MEP of the opposition Jobbik – Conservatives, called it “extremely detrimental” to Hungary that “Orbán’s politics resulted in such initiatives as the suspension of voting rights in the EU Council, stripping Hungary of the EU presidency, or withholding EU funds.”

While the EU institutions stood up for democratic values, “they also override sections of the treaties with politically motivated initiatives,” he warned.

“If they really want to do something against Orbán and his regime, they shouldn’t shame Hungary as a whole and propose measures that hit all Hungarians, but rather ones targeting the leader of the regime and his oligarchs,” Gyöngyösi said.

Deutsch: 'EP Attacking Hungary Over Its Rejection of Migration, Gender Madness'

The European Parliament “is attacking” Hungary because it rejects migration and the “gender madness” and stands by its position calling for an immediate ceasefire and peace talks as regards the war in Ukraine, Tamás Deutsch, an MEP of ruling Fidesz, said in Strasbourg on Wednesday, after participating in an EP plenary debate on the rule of law in Hungary.

Speaking to Hungarian journalists, Deutsch noted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen “making it clear” during the debate that Brussels would continue to withhold part of the EU funding until Hungary changed its position on migration and “the gender ideology madness.”

“This is something that has been denied over many years, but now had to be admitted by the EC president, too,” he said.

As regards the extraordinary EU summit called for February 1, Deutsch indicated Hungary’s readiness to provide further assistance to Ukraine, adding however that Hungary’s position was that any financial support should be extended independently of the EU’s budget.

“Hungary does not want to take out a joint loan, but it is ready to make contributions from its national budget,” he said.

He reiterated Hungary’s firm position calling for an immediate ceasefire and starting peace talks, “no matter how loud the voice of the pro-war camp is.”

Deutsch said he and fellow Fidesz MEP Kinga Gál had written a joint letter to EP President Roberta Metsola and European Court of Auditors President Tony Murphy, asking them for a scrutiny of remarks made recently by Finnish MEP Petri Sarvamaa, who Deutsch said had called Fidesz and the Hungarian right “Nazis”.

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