The European Commission is meeting on Sunday morning to adopt a position regarding the rule of law procedure against Hungary, and will likely inform the public about their decision in the afternoon. Typically the commissioner most relevant to the matter appears before the media, which in this case is expected to be Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn.
The Brussels-based body has until September 21 to make its decision, but its president will be abroad next week, first to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, then to spend several days in the United States to take part in the UN General Assembly. Because of this, the College of Commissioners is holding its meeting at an unusual time.
Whatever position the European Commission takes on Sunday, the Hungarian government will provide legislative proposals to address the body’s concerns on Monday. If the Commission finds Hungary’s response adequate, it can terminate the rule of law procedure and determine that Hungary does not pose a threat to the joint EU budget.
Also at stake could be €5.9 billion (US $5.9 billion) due to Hungary from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). In theory, the rule of law procedure and the RRF are independent of each other, but the European Commission is unlikely to determine that money sent to Hungary harms the EU’s budget while also approving the payment of funds to the country.
A possible solution to this problem could be if the Commission effectively combined the two issues by approving Hungary’s recovery plan on the condition that certain laws are passed by the Hungarian Parliament.
EU law stipulates that Hungary could lose 70% of the funding it is entitled to if all of the formalities are not in place by December 31. [Magyar Hang]
This will be interesting!
Considering the lack of dialogue in parliament and the marginalized position of the opposition in Hungarian media, an open public debate about responses is out of the equation.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a shadow cabinet has formed and prepares to take action, if Fidesz decides to act against the EU again.
The stakes in Orbán’s gamble are high and EU odds are against him. If the expected, continued confrontational course would result in a public discussion about where the Hungarian “bus” is heading, it could bring a change.
This upcoming decision by the European Comission, unlike any resolution by the European Parliament, can really bite and have an effect on the actions of Hungary’s government.
In the past, EU institutions showed that they are usually eager to reach any broadly unsatisfactory agreement that allows things to move on; the proverbial bad agreement better than no agreement.
But in the case of Hungary, at long last the political will has been found to curtail some aspects of Orbán’s slide into autocracy, at least the ones regarding the misuse of EU funds.
In the last few years, Orbán has used whatever power he has in the EU (usually, veto power) to take a hard stance that looks very much like a negotiating position: give me the money or I’ll continue blocking your resolutions 26 to 1. But it has also made him quite a lot of enemies, so the EU’s stance against him has also hardened.
Therefore I think EU funds will eventually flow to Hungary, because it’s in the nature of the EU to compromise, but the EU institutions will not completely let go of this useful counter-negotiating tool.
Simply put, without the threat of withholding the funds, the EU’s common positions on foreign policy would depend on a Putin puppet, which surely 26 countries out of 27 find unacceptable.
But all Orban has to do is lie to the EU, which he is practiced at doing, and tell them he will mend his ways and they will believe him and send the money.
And even if he only gets 30% of the funding he will make certain that it goes, as usual, exclusively to Fidesz loyalists, thereby perpetuating the very offense which the EU is attempting to tackle, albeit unsuccessfully because they just cannot face up to dictators and mafia criminals.
The only solution is to send funds directly to the towns where the opposition is in charge, and which have been starved of grants as a punishment for not voting Fidesz. Such as Karacsony and the Budapest Mayor`s office.
And every penny should be audited and monitored. Something that should have happened decades ago.
Comments are closed.