On Tuesday, Members of the European Parliament warned the Commission against falling short of protecting the EU’s financial interests in Hungary.
“This is the first time the rule of law mechanism is being put into motion and it requires member states to treat it in a careful manner”, said EU Affairs Minister Mikuláš Bek, opening the debate on behalf of the Czech Presidency. EU Ambassadors will discuss the matter at tomorrow’s meeting, he added, assuring MEPs that the Council will play its role in protecting the EU budget.
Budgets Commissioner Johannes Hahn pointed to the “17 remedial measures” submitted by Hungary to address the risks to the European Union budget, such as changes to public procurement law and an independent anti-corruption task force, which he welcomed as “important commitments in the right direction” and “constructive engagement”. However, he said that the Commission will reassess after 19 November if Hungary is taking steps to introduce these measures in the relevant laws and to implement them accordingly.
Most MEPs welcomed the Commission’s proposals for action and called on Council to take a swift decision and to freeze 7.5 billion euro for Hungary, as proposed. A majority of speakers voiced their concerns that Hungary’s remedial measures will not be actual reforms but just “empty promises” to escape the budget cuts. They insisted that the Commission should look for robust proof and carefully verify the reforms enacted and “not accept compromises as a rule of law guarantee, just because Orban is suggesting them”.
Some MEPs suggested that the measures proposed by the Commission were not enough, as they concerned only 15% of all EU funds channelled to Hungary. They accused the Commission of “negotiating” on the rule of law and of “half-hearted application” of the rule of law conditionality. Some even warned that if the Commission “bows to Hungary”, it risks losing Parliament’s confidence.
On the other hand, other MEPs accused the Commission of “only attacking the conservative governments of Europe”, and imposing “Brussels ideology” on the Hungarian people and the democratically elected government of Hungary, while overlooking similar rule of law, judiciary and corruption issues in other EU countries.
You can re-watch the debate here.
No EU funds for Orbán until real reforms to restore the Rule of Law
October 4, 2022
In a plenary debate in the European Parliament today, Renew Europe stressed that the Council should follow the European Commission’s proposal to suspend EU funds for the Hungarian government for its severe deterioration of the Rule of Law.
The Council should even go a step further by amending the European Commission’s proposal in order to reinforce the text. It should set clearer Rule of Law conditions, stronger checks on their effective implementation, and increasing the amount of funding to be freezed.
While Renew Europe welcomes the first-time-ever use of the Conditionality Mechanism linking EU subsidies to the respect of the Rule of Law, our MEPs emphasised that the European Commission and the Council must not let Orbán off the hook or be fooled by empty promises of change.
No funds should be unblocked before a verifiable restoration of the rule of law is demonstrated. A reconsideration to unfreeze any funds can only be made after the Hungarian government has implemented its promised reforms.
Meanwhile, Hungarian citizens must not be punished for the corrupt actions of Prime Minister Orbán. For this reason, Renew Europe wants to pass the suspended EU funds directly to civil society.
Sophie in ‘t Veld (D66, Netherlands), Coordinator in the Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, said:
“Viktor Orbán has demolished democracy unimpeded for over a decade. He has used EU funds to cement his power. The European Commission must not disburse any further funds without meaningful verifiable reforms. Parliament has to do whatever it takes to make sure no payments will be made to this corrupt government.”
Moritz Körner (Germany, Freie Demokratische Partei), Renew Europe’s negotiator on the Rule of Law Conditionality Mechanism regulation in the Committee on Budgets Control, concluded:
“The Commission and the Council must not be fobbed off by Orbán’s quickly decided paper tigers. Orbán has lost the right to a leap of faith. There must be no more discount on the rule of law in Europe.”
Source – Renew Europe (via email)
Greens/EFA: The EU Commission must not rubber stamp away the rule of law in Hungary
Today, MEPs will debate proposals by the Commission to protect the EU budget from systemic corruption in Hungary in public procurement, under the rule of law conditionality mechanism. The Commission appears to be moving toward deeming anti-corruption proposals by the Hungarian government satisfactory enough to suggest for the Council to end the process, without any measures being imposed.
Terry Reintke MEP, Greens/EFA negotiator for the rule of law conditionality mechanism, comments:
“Less than a month after MEPs declared Hungary is no longer a democracy. Still, the European Commission is not doing enough to freeze funding to Hungary and to properly protect the EU budget. The Commission’s proposals under the Conditionality Mechanism are too narrow and inadequate to address systemic corruption and state capture in Hungary.”
“The Commission must fulfil its role of the Guardian of the Treaties and stop treating the rule of law as negotiable and use the conditionality mechanism properly. This cannot just be a paper tool that is nice in theory. Therefore, the Commission should launch a new conditionality check based on the problems with the independence of the judiciary in Hungary, where the budgetary implications are clear-cut.”
Daniel Freund MEP, Greens/EFA negotiator for the rule of law conditionality mechanism, comments:
“The conditions that the Commission has set are far too weak. Viktor Orbán and Fidesz have spent the last twelve years dismantling democracy and the rule of law. The Commission has not proposed a single measure that would make courts and public prosecutors independent again.”
“Without an independent judiciary or an independent prosecutor, anti-corruption measures will not work. Hungary is no longer a democracy and the Commission’s efforts will not change that without decisive action. With the rule of law mechanism, the Commission has a strong instrument that it is employing way too late and far too cautiously. It is absurd that Viktor Orbán can avert these sanctions before the end of the year with a few pseudo-reforms.”
The debate can be followed live from after 15:00 here. The Commission finally triggered the conditionality mechanism against the Hungarian government in April this year, which resulted in the proposal to suspend some EU funds. The previous plenary session voted on Greens/EFA MEP, Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield’s report into the “Existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded”. The report states that Hungary has moved from being a democracy to a ‘hybrid regime of electoral autocracy’.
Source – Greens/EFA