The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (France), during a question-and-answer session, that she had decided to send an official letter of notification to the Hungarian authorities to start it. The process, although Brussels could take months to present the case to member states for a formal decision to withhold the funds.
The Hungarian government has already responded to this announcement, calling Brussels’ decision a “mistake”.
Gergeli Golias, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, urged the European Commission “not to penalize Hungarian voters for not expressing an opinion that liked Brussels in Sunday’s election”, which Fidesz party won by a large margin.
This mechanism, which has been in place since January 2021 but not yet in use, will make it possible for the first time to suspend the payment of community funds when violations of rule of law principles – such as judicial independence, equality before the law or separation of powers – are detected that affect the Correct use of European funds.
In front of MEPs, von der Leyen explained that the Commission’s analysis of the explanations received from the Hungarian government had led to the conclusion that it should “move to the next step”, which is to send the official notification of the beginning of the process.
Von der Leyen explained that “this leads to the revitalization of a process that has a fixed timetable, and there is a process that is going on,” and emphasized that “no case has been lost” for the rule of law violation that threatens the proper use of community funding in Hungary, a country in tension with Brussels since Several years due to problems of corruption and lack of independence of the judiciary.
The use of this mechanism makes it possible, as a last resort, to freeze spending of cohesion funds, agricultural funds and even the Recovery Fund for Hungary, the main beneficiary of the cohesion lines, in the amount of 22,500 million euros until 2027.
The European Parliament received the announcement with a standing ovation, after months of insisting that this tool should be used to protect European money in countries like Poland or Hungary, and even threatening to refer the European Commission to the European Court of Justice for not launching their own mechanisms.
The implementation of the mechanism comes just two days after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a fourth consecutive term, thanks to a landslide victory in Sunday’s national elections, and cites European institutions and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as “dissidents”.
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