ungarn officially continues to expect that the frozen EU funds will be paid out if an agreement is reached between the government in Budapest and the European Commission on the reform measures introduced by the end of the year. Tibor Navracsics, minister for regional development and a former EU commissioner well acquainted with Brussels customs, said on Thursday Hungary had fulfilled 17 reforms called for by the European Commission. An agreement “will be reached by the end of the year,” he announced in Budapest.
The FAZ had previously reported that the European Commission intends to take a hard line in dealing with deficiencies in the rule of law in Hungary and that not all promises have been fulfilled. Therefore, 7.5 billion euros from three cohesion programs should be frozen and the payment of 5.8 billion euros from the recovery fund should be linked to the fulfillment of certain “milestones”. The decisions on this are to be taken by a qualified majority at the Council of Finance Ministers.
Exceeded the promise only
Gergely Gulyás, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s right-hand man as Chancellery Minister, said that even if decisions are taken as announced in media reports, Hungary will still receive the money it is due, albeit possibly belatedly. The Commission is under pressure from the European Parliament, among others, and has therefore changed its communication, but not its course.
As far as projects are concerned, where Hungary has so far resisted, it intends to stick to it. Gulyás also ruled out that Hungary would agree to the EU levying a global minimum tax, for example in the course of a political barter. According to him, this would significantly weaken Europe’s competitiveness compared to the United States.
The position announced by the EU Commission came as a surprise. Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who is in charge of the procedure to protect the EU budget, was “very confident” that Hungary would comply with the agreed conditions. In internal meetings, he had repeatedly said that the country even “over-fulfilled” the measures. However, others on the Commission were far more skeptical. Now it is said that Hungary has only exceeded the promise, but not the delivery.
This applies in particular to the newly created anti-corruption authority, which Hahn presented as the core of the reforms. For example, the government has so far been unwilling to disclose the assets of its members, which is the strongest indicator of conflicts of interest in public procurement. Brussels also takes offense at Vice President Timea Holbusz. She was previously responsible for controlling the allocation of EU funds in the Ministry of Finance – and is said to have always turned a blind eye.
The EU Commission has now included a total of 17 “remedial measures” with which Orbán wanted to end the budget control procedure before it leads to sanctions in Hungary’s national plan for the use of the Corona recovery fund. In addition, there are further commitments to reform the judiciary, which are intended to curtail political influence on the appointment of constitutional judges, as well as procedures for controlling expenditure.