The EU may cut funding to Hungary over corruption issues

The EU may cut funding to Hungary over corruption issues
FILE PHOTO: Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for the European Union leaders summit, as EU’s leaders attempt to agree on Russian oil sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium May 30, 2022. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/File Photo

Since Hungary’s 2004 membership in the EU, things haven’t always gone smoothly. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has had arguments with the EU over Hungary’s civil rights policies and independence of the country’s judicial, media and academic sectors. Now, another feud has begun as Hungary is accused of corruption; the EU says it lacks effective anti-graft safeguards. In the past, the European Commission has blocked 6 billion euros (US$6 billion) for Hungary from its COVID stimulus package over the same issue.

Later this week, the commission will probably suggest suspending  7.5 billion euros (US$7.5 billion) from being sent to Hungary from its over 1.1 trillion euro (US$1.1 trillion) budget for 2021-27. This would be its first move under a new sanctions agreement known as “cash for democracy." EU countries would have three months to decide on the proposal. Yesterday, though, Hungary pledged to meet certain commitments to unlock that funding. For instance, it’s ready to create a new anti-graft agency. We’ll see if these changes help Hungary’s case.

Key comments:

“Today’s decision is a clear demonstration of the commission’s resolve to protect the EU budget, and to use all tools at our disposal to ensure this important objective," EU budget chief Johannes Hahn said to reporters after a Sunday meeting of European commissioners.

“This text is yet another attempt by the federalist European political parties to attack Hungary and its Christian-democratic, conservative government for ideological reasons," said some right-wing European Parliament members in a minority position statement with the report.

“Even the commission has acknowledged that we’ve jointly achieved positive results in many areas after talks with the Hungarian government. But the work is far from over," Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga posted on Facebook yesterday.