The European Commission has received a response to the administrative letter it sent to Hungary, Commission Spokesperson Balázs Ujvári confirmed to Népszava.
The letter that the Brussels-based body sent to Budapest in November referred to suspected corrupt transactions and systemic irregularities. The Commission’s concerns could ultimately lead to launching a procedure that levies financial penalties against Hungary.
Among other things, the Commission inquired about real estate development projects around the Balaton region, state land auctions, public universities being taken over by foundations, the planned sale of Budapest Airport shares, as well as the lack of transparency in public procurements and the risks associated with conflicts of interest.
Although the Orbán government was given two months to reply to the letter, it did not send an answer to the European Commission until this Thursday, two days after the deadline.
The exchange of letters is not part of the rule of law procedure, and at the moment is only an informal inquiry to provide insight to the Commission’s decision-makers, but it indicates the fundamental problems that could lead to the imposition of a new sanctioning instrument against Hungary.
The law stipulates that EU Member States can be fined if their failures to uphold the rule of law are found to directly harm the common EU budget. One example of this could be when the Member State’s judiciary does not investigate or penalize the misuse of EU funds.
The regulation specifying the rule of law procedure has been in force for a year, but the European Commission cannot enforce it until the matter is taken up by the European Court of Justice, which is expected to issue a ruling on February 16. If the court strengthens the rule of law mechanism, the College of Commissioners may initiate the first steps toward sanctioning the rule-breaking country.
In addition to Hungary, the Commission also sent an administrative letter to Poland, which the Mateusz Morawiecki government has recently responded to.
[Népszava][Photo: President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen]