BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union executive said on Sunday that the bloc temporarily suspended about 7.5 billion euros ($) in funding to Hungary over concerns over democratic setbacks and possible mismanagement of EU funds. recommended to stop.
The European Commission, which proposes bloc laws and ensures that they are respected, takes action “to ensure the protection of the EU budget and the financial interests of the EU against violations of the principles of the rule of law in Hungary.” said it does.
EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn said the commission was recommending the suspension of funds “worth an estimated €7.5 billion” despite measures proposed by Hungary to address the shortage. .
Funding comes from the “Cohesion Fund” granted to Hungary. One of the largest portions of the bloc’s budget, this envelope of money will help countries bring their economies and infrastructure up to EU standards.
EU countries put about 1% of their gross national income into the budget. According to commission estimates, Hungary will receive at least 50 billion euros in total from her 27-year budget from 2021.
Actions to suspend funding must be endorsed by EU Member States, including a “limited majority” of 55% of the 27 Member States representing at least 65% of the total EU population. is required.
You have one month to decide whether to freeze Hungarian funds, but in exceptional circumstances that period can be extended to two months. The Commission recommends that Member States take until 19 November to give Hungary more time to address its concerns.
For nearly a decade, the commission has accused Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban of dismantling democratic institutions, controlling the media and violating minority rights. Orban, who has been in office since 2010, has denied the accusations.
After a meeting of EU commissioners in Brussels who unanimously supported the move, Hahn welcomed Hungary’s proposal to resolve the issue and said its proposed remedial measures were moving “in the right direction”. .
He said some of the Commission’s concerns could be addressed if measures were tracked and acted on appropriately. “We cannot conclude that we are adequately protected.”
The Commission’s concerns focus on public procurement, i.e. the state purchase of goods and services, or the execution of projects using EU funds. Critics say the awarding of such contracts has allowed the Orban government to channel large amounts of her EU money into the business of politically connected insiders.
A senior EU official pointed to “systematic and systematic irregularities, deficiencies and weaknesses in public procurement related to the very high rate of single tenders”. Officials estimate that about half of Hungary’s public tenders will be approved after a single tender process.
The committee also has “serious concerns regarding the detection, prevention, and remediation of conflicts of interest,” and is particularly concerned about the many charitable trusts that manage critical funds in the field of education.
Hungarian media reported that Orban’s nationalist government is expected to announce a new law as early as Monday. EU lawmakers expressed concern last week that this was just a ruse to buy them time.
In Thursday’s resolution, parliamentarians said Hungary’s nationalist government was deliberately seeking to undermine the bloc’s democratic values.
They said the government in Budapest, which Orban characterized as an “illiberal democracy,” had become a “hybrid regime of electoral dictatorship.” In part, it accuses EU member states of turning a blind eye to possible human rights abuses.
“For the first time, an EU institution is stating the sad truth that Hungary is no longer a democracy,” said Gwendolyn Delbos Corfield, a member of the French Green Party who oversaw the resolution through parliament.
The lawsuit, launched by the Commission against Hungary in April, is another step in the use of new mechanisms that will allow the EU to take action to protect its budget. , does not cover Member States.
This mechanism is seen as the EU’s most powerful weapon to prevent the worsening of anti-democratic tendencies in some countries. A European Commission official says Hungary has failed to consistently implement EU recommendations for more than a decade.
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