The European Commission will monitor “very closely” the implementation of Hungary’s legislative proposals in connection with the rule of law and will always use “its toolbox of instruments” including the conditionality mechanism to protect the European Union’s financial interests, the Commissioner for Budget and Administration said in Strasbourg on Tuesday. Johannes Hahn addressed a European Parliament debate on freezing funding for Hungary under the conditionality mechanism which links EU funding to the rule of law, noting that the EC had indicated to Hungary its concerns over the rule of law situation in the country in September.
The commission is concerned over a serious risk of Hungary’s continued breach of laws in using EU funds, and irregularities and inadequacy in public procurement procedures, Hahn said. Hahn said that since EU funds were mostly allocated in a public procurement procedure, the commission had decided for suspending 65% of Hungary’s cohesion funding. The suspension amounts to an estimated 7.5 billion euros, he said.
The commissioner noted Hungary’s 17 legislative proposals in remedial measures submitted to parliament to fulfil requirements set by the commission. He expressed hope that Hungarian authorities would adequately implement the proposed measures.
Addressing the debate, Balázs Hidvéghi, an MEP of ruling Fidesz, said that the EP’s “extremist representatives” continued ideological blackmail and generate disunity in a rather serious situation triggered by the war in Ukraine and “flawed European sanctions”. He accused them of “coming up, hand-in-hand with their left-wing Hungarian peers, with the most absurd accusations just to prevent that Hungarian people can access the EU funds they are entitled to”.
Csaba Molnár, an MEP of the opposition Democratic Coalition (DK), said that the authorities pledged to be set up by the Hungarian government would not be independent, but have “government appointees” filling leadership posts. He said access to EU funds had to be ensured to Hungarian people, Hungarian local governments and Hungarian businesses. Katalin Cseh, an MEP of opposition Momentum, said the European Commission had “a historic chance to stop the rise of autocracy”, but had still failed “to present tangible results” after almost two years of creating the conditionality mechanism. István Ujhelyi, an MEP for the Socialists, told Hungarian journalists after the debate that “Hungary would only be a country governed by the rule of law, and the EU become a safe, unified and wealthy community of Europeans, if every generation knows what it means to be responsible for common democratic standards”.