BRUSSELS – Reuters
On Sunday, the European Commission recommended suspending the payment of about 7.5 billion euros in funding to Hungary over corruption, in the first case of its kind in the European Union, under a new penalty aimed at better protecting the rule of law in member states.
“This is about violations of the rule of law with the use and management of funds from the European Union,” said EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn. We cannot conclude with certainty that the EU budget is sufficiently protected.”
He pointed to systematic violations in Hungary’s public procurement laws, the lack of adequate safeguards against conflict of interest, the weak effective prosecution of corruption perpetrators, and deficiencies in other measures to combat it.
Hahn said the commission was recommending that about a third of Hungary’s integration funds be suspended from the union’s joint budget for the period from 2021 to 2027, which amounts to 1.1 trillion euros in total.
The €7.5 billion in suspension amounts to about 50 percent of Hungary’s estimated GDP in 2022. European Union countries have up to three months to decide on this proposal.
Hahn said Hungary’s latest promise to address criticism from the European Union is an important step in the right direction, but that this must be translated into new laws and practical moves before the bloc is satisfied to do so.
The European Union enacted the new financial penalty two years ago, and the move came in response to what it says are developments that threaten to undermine democracy in Poland and Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban has weakened courts, the media, NGOs and academia, and imposed restrictions on the rights of migrants and women during His reign has been going on for more than a decade.
Hungarian Development Minister Tibor Navraxiks, who is responsible for negotiations with the European Union, said his country would fulfill all of its 17 commitments it made to the European Commission to avoid any cuts from the bloc’s funding.
“Hungary has not made commitments to confuse the commission,” he told a news conference. We have made commitments that we know we can fulfill. So we will not face a loss of funding.”