picture of thumbs down guy

The countries belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) ended their meeting in Brussels on Wednesday without adopting a joint statement after Hungary did not sign the document, Népszava wrote on Thursday.

The newspaper noted that this had never happened before in the history of the group, which comprises the European Union Member States as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Hungary presumably blocked the adoption of the final declaration to hit back at Norway for not providing the country with funding in the 2014-2020 cycle of the Norwegian Fund.

“We took note of the fact that the EU side was not been able to reach internal consensus on the proposed declaration by the EEA Council, but we are confident that co-operation will continue as before, in the interests of both the Union and the three countries,” said the press officer for Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, who chaired the meeting.

The Hungarians took the joint statement hostage, it was reported, to attempt to influence their bilateral dispute with Norway over the Norwegian Fund. “They blocked every route to a compromise,” an EU diplomat told the paper before the meeting.

The EEA countries will meet next spring in Brussels, but negotiations on the extent of contributions from Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway to the lesser-developed EU countries for economic and social purposes between 2021 and 2027 are expected to begin before then.

At this time, they will decide on the extent of funding from the Norwegian Fund for the current financial period. The three countries have already indicated that they are ready to start negotiations, with the positions of the remaining 27 Member States already finalized. As before, this agreement will also have to be adopted by consensus.

It was revealed this summer that Hungary was no longer able to access funding from the Norwegian Fund for the current period.

The use of roughly €214.6 million (US $240.5 million) has been under negotiation since 2016, and it was declared in December last year that no project could be approved until an independent civil fund manager was appointed. The fund manager should have been selected by July 21 this year, but the parties could not reach an agreement.

[Magyar Hang]

By Steven N.

Steven is the editor-in-chief of Hungarian Politics. He has been following the political scene in Hungary and the Central European region more or less since 1994.