A resolution of the European Parliament denounces the “deliberate efforts” of the Government of Viktor Orbán to undermine European values
The Commission will propose on Sunday the freezing of billions of European funds under the conditionality of the rule of law
The “lack of decisive action by the European Union“has contributed” to the breakdown of the democracythe rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungaryturning the country into a hybrid regime of electoral autocracy“. This is what a report from the European Parliament approved this Thursday that reproaches the Council – the institution that represents the governments of the EU– not having achieved “significant progress” in the procedures opened against the country he leads Viktor Orban. According to European ParliamentHungary cannot be considered a full democracy and should not receive the european funds of recovery until it does not meet the recommendations.
In the eyes of MEPs, Hungary represents a systemic threat and a clear risk of serious violation of European values. The report expresses its “deep concern” and condemns “the deliberate systematic efforts of the Hungarian government to undermine the values on which the union is founded.” It also highlights that the situation has worsened considerably since the European Parliament activated the Article 7 of the Treaty in September 2018 -the nuclear button that allows a Member State to be punished with the withdrawal of the right to vote in the Council for its authoritarian drift– and “deeply” regrets the inability of the Council to achieve significant progress in the procedures that are underway because with its “inaction” it has contributed to the appearance of what they call a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy”.
Specifically, MEPs deplore the inability that the Council has shown over the last four years to stop the democratic backsliding and warn that continuing to delay the adoption is a violation of the principle of the rule of law by the Council itself. Among the requests in the report: they urge the European Comission not to approve Hungary’s recovery plan until they comply with all the recommendations of the European Semester and apply the relevant rulings of the EU Court of Justice. They also claim to exclude the country from financing cohesion programs that contribute to the misuse of EU funds or violations of the rule of law and to apply the budget conditionality mechanism that allows European funds to be frozen.
Of the 534 MEPs who participated in the vote, 433 voted in favour, 123 against and 28 abstained. The resolution had the backing of 5 of the 7 great families except the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the far right of identity and democracy. With a few limited exceptions, both groups, including MEPs from voxhave voted against failing Orbán.
“The situation has deteriorated dramatically”, warns the rapporteur of the report, Gwendonline Delbos-Corfieldabout a situation that has worsened since the outbreak of the covid-19. Among the issues that most concern MEPs are the independence of the judiciary, corruption and fundamental freedoms. “The conclusions of this report are clear and irrevocable: Hungary is not a democracy. It was more urgent than ever for Parliament to take this position, given the alarming rate at which the rule of law in Hungary is deteriorating. This should serve as a wake-up call attention for the Council and the Commission”, he claimed.
freezing of funds
The slap of the European Parliament to Orbán, symbolic rather than practical, comes on the eve of a proposal for Brussels to freeze billions in application of the conditionality mechanism for the continuous violations of the rule of law. The deadline to make a decision expires next Wednesday but the Community Executive has been forced to advance the meeting of the College of Commissioners to this Sunday due to scheduling problems due to the funeral of the Queen isabel II.
Although the Government of Viktor Orbán has taken some steps in recent weeks by promising the creation of an anti-fraud authority to control the use of European funds, the revision of the law on public contracts, the reform of the regulations on the declaration of parliamentarians or the inclusion in the law of the obligation to support OLAF’s on-site inspections, in Brussels they do not trust and want deeds rather than words.
The Hungarian newspaper Népszava mentioned before the summer that some 8,800 million euros were at stake for the 2021-2027 period, although given the commitments assumed by budapest in recent weeks, Brussels could revise the amount downwards. Once the Commission formalizes the proposal, it will be the EU Council of Ministers – which brings together the representatives of the Twenty-seven – who will have to make a decision by qualified majority. You will have a period of one month extendable to three.
Governments could be inclined to exhaust this deadline to give Orbán time to approve the changes and fulfill his promises, which would ensure that there would be no freezing of funds. Parallel to this push and pull, Brussels and Budapest maintain another open front to conclude the negotiations on the Hungarian recovery plan, the only one that the Commission has not so far blessed due to its doubts about the corruption and the rule of law. Time is also short in this case. If Budapest does not sign the financial agreement before the end of the year, it could lose up to 70% of the 7,200 million pre-assigned.