EU initiates rule of law process against HungaryReading Time: 2 minutes
The European Commission (EC) has activated against Hungary a “rule of law mechanism” that links alleged corruption to provision of EU funds. A formal notification was sent to the Hungarian government on Wednesday, after all the commissioners approved the move.
On Wednesday morning journalists were briefed that the EU’s key concerns regarding Hungary’s handling of EU funding are transparency, accountability, monitoring, auditing fraud and corruption. After over a decade of raising these issues, the Hungarian cabinet has not adequately responded. Now the EC has the means to act, members of the press were told.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas accused Brussels was making a mistake “by dancing to the Hungarian left-wing’s whistle”, in response to the EC’s announcement on activating the rule-of-law conditionality against the country.
Daniela Schwarzer, a regional director at the liberal NGO Open Society Foundations (OSF), said in a statement that the “decision to trigger the conditionality mechanism against Hungary for rule of law violations resulting in corruption and fraud is long overdue. This is an important step towards excluding Hungary from the European recovery fund.
“Hungary’s rule of law violations can no longer be swept under the rug to create some sort of fake unity as Europe faces Putin’s war in Ukraine. In the long run, this would only weaken European unity,” added Schwarzer, a senior official of the OSF, which relocated its European headquarters from Budapest to Brussels after pressure from the Orban government.
According to Brussels-based website Politico, the EC has activated the mechanism against Budapest but not Poland, because it has a stronger case due to Hungary’s “rampant high-level corruption and lack of proper prosecution”.
Hungary had repeatedly ignored EU recommendations, which it said was “indicative of a serious risk for the sound financial management of the Union budget and the protection of the Union’s financial interests going forward”, Politico added.
The proceedings are expected to take between five and nine months, after which the European Council – made up of EU member’s heads of state and government – will approve the EC proposal on proportionate financial sanctions.
According to regulations, the European Council can approve an EC proposal with support from at least 55% of the 27 EU member states, with at least 65% of the EU’s population.
Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga said the Hungarian government was “not interested in political statements” and would wait to receive a formal notification with concrete details, to which it will respond.