Katalin Halmai (Brussels);
European Commission; corruption; rule of law; Orbán government; recovery fund; EU funds;
Hungary may be the first EU member state to lose significant EU funds if it does not implement the reform package for the prevention and screening of systemic fraud and abuse.
The European Commission (EC) recommends withdrawing 7.5 billion euros, roughly HUF 3,000 billion, from Hungary in catch-up support if by November 19, the Orbán government will not fulfill its promises to Brussels to crack down on corruption in the framework of the so-called rule of law procedure. This is 65 percent of three cohesion support programs – environmental protection, transport and settlement development. The Brussels body also initiates that public interest trust organizations and organizations under their direct or indirect control cannot receive community funds in the current budget cycle.
This is the first case in the history of the EU that a member state is threatened with a fine for endangering the community’s financial interests by violating the rule of law. In Hungarian:
The proposed withdrawal of funds is a slightly smaller proportion than what the EU board had put into perspective in July, precisely because, according to its judgment, Budapest is expected to make and will make significant commitments that must be honored. According to the EC, the corrective measures proposed by the Hungarians can in principle solve the existing problems if they are recorded in appropriate rules and legislation and then implemented. So that’s the bottom line
The EC’s proposal will now be submitted to the council of finance ministers of the member states, which has one to three months to make a final decision: whether to stop the procedure or impose financial sanctions on Hungary. The EU27 must make the decision by December 18 at the latest, which requires the vote of a qualified majority of the member states. (15 of the 27 countries must support the decision, and the 15 must represent at least 65 percent of the total population of the EU.) The EC would give the Hungarian authorities time to implement the agreed reforms.
In its July letter to the government, the board of commissioners had already come up with the blocking of a large part of the three cohesion support programs from the community’s currently running seven-year budget, and the public interest trust foundations would not receive a penny from it if Hungary does not enact laws ensuring the orderly and corruption-free commitment of EU funds and does not meet the requirements.
The EC expects these steps to
In the past period, especially in the summer months, intense professional and political negotiations took place between Budapest and Brussels to remove the EU concerns expressed in the rule of law procedure. The Hungarian government has already announced some measures and submitted legislative proposals to the Parliament, for example, on legal remedies for prosecutorial decisions, on social consultation before the creation of laws. At the same time, negotiations took place on the grants from the recovery fund, which the European Commission is withholding due to similar concerns. If the rule of law procedure could be stopped before the end of December, it would also give impetus to the agreement on the Hungarian recovery plan. Within this framework, 5.8 billion euros (2,500 billion forints) of non-refundable support would go to Hungary until 2026 for economic recovery after the epidemic.
Source: Népszava by nepszava.hu.
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