European funding: Brussels keeps pressure on Hungary
Brussels is expected on Sunday to offer to freeze billions of euros in money paid out to Hungary over the country’s shortcomings in public procurement, while giving Budapest a chance to escape punishment from reforms.
In April, the European Commission opened an unprecedented procedure against Hungary, which can result in the suspension of European funds whose use is threatened by corruption problems or a lack of judicial oversight in a country.
After months of exchanges with Budapest, at the end of a session on Sunday, the municipal board is due to present its position to the Council, an institution representing member states, which will be responsible for the final decision.
In July, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn proposed in an internal document to freeze 70% of the funds from several cohesion policy programs to be allocated to Hungary for the period 2021-2027.
But according to European sources, that share should be revised down due to the Hungarian government’s “efforts” to respond to Brussels’ concerns.
The European Commission should also propose to member states to offer Hungary a way out that would allow the country to avoid the suspension of funds if it implements the necessary reforms in the fight against corruption.
Member States have one month to decide on the Commission’s proposal by qualified majority, but the deadline can be extended by a further two months.
Brussels is concerned about the use of the EU budget by nationalist Viktor Orban’s government, which has been in power since 2010.
It points to irregularities and shortcomings in public procurement procedures, the high proportion of individual applications for these contracts, the lack of control of conflicts of interest and judicial procedures in cases of suspected fraud.
– recovery plan blocked –
Budapest is struggling to escape the axe, but also to convince Brussels to unblock its post-Covid recovery plan (€5.8 billion in subsidies).
Hungary is the only EU country whose plan has still not received the green light from the European Commission for the same reasons related to respect for the rule of law.
Hungary recently announced that it would quickly set up an “independent agency” to fight corruption, responsible for overseeing the use of EU funds and improving transparency in public procurement.
Measures must allow citizens to bring a complaint to court if they believe prosecutors have arbitrarily dropped a corruption investigation. The transparency of the legislative process must also be strengthened.
Gergely Gulyas, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, announced on Saturday that the Hungarian parliament will vote next week on legislation aimed at allaying Europeans’ fears. They “will come into force in November,” he promised.
The wealth declaration system for Hungarian parliamentarians was also changed in July to bring it in line with European Parliament rules.
Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga has toured several European capitals in recent days to advocate for her country’s cause, which is struggling economically amid runaway inflation and the collapse of the forint, the country’s currency.
Without an agreement on Hungary’s recovery plan by the end of the year, 70% of subsidies will be lost.
The European Parliament on Thursday, in a report adopted by a large majority, appreciated that Hungary was no longer a true democracy but “an electoral autocracy” and called on the Commission “not to approve the Hungarian plan, which it will not have fully complied with at all.” Recommendations” from Brussels.
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