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Tag: European Commission

EU won’t approve Hungary’s economic recovery plan this year

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The European Commission won’t approve the Hungarian plan for post-epidemic recovery this year, according to the vice-president of the body responsible for economic affairs.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the council of finance ministers in the Member States for the last time in 2021, Valdis Dombrovskis said it was unlikely that Hungary’s proposals would receive a favorable rating from the Brussels board this year.

The delay means that Hungary will no longer receive a 13% advance this year on its 2.5 trillion Ft. (US $7.77 billion) subsidy from the EU. If the Hungarian plan gets the green light next year, this money will not be lost, but different conditions will be attached to it. While the 2021 amount could be disbursed without any preconditions, from 2022 it can only be attached to specific commitments.

Dombrovskis did not reveal anything new about talks between Brussels and Budapest that had been going on for several months, but reiterated that the EU expects its recommendations to be met on the fight against corruption, the predictability, quality, and transparency of decision-making, and reliable monitoring of how EU funds are spent.

The politician also stated that, like Hungary, Poland is also unlikely to meet this year’s deadline, and negotiations will be ongoing next year in Warsaw.

The Economic and Financial Affair Council has so far adopted recovery plans for 22 Member States and paid a total of €54.2 billion (US $61.5 billion) in advances to 18 Member States.

[Népszava]

Orbán meets with European Commission Vice-President

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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán hosted Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight in the European Commission, in his offices the Carmelite Monastery, where they exchanged views on current European and economic issues, said Bertalan Havasi, the Prime Minister’s press officer, to MTI.

Not many details were provided about the meeting, which was also attended by Minister of Innovation and Technology László Palkovics, and covered the topics of economic recovery after the coronavirus epidemic, the competitiveness of European industry, further opportunities for developing vehicle and battery production in Hungary, and the spread of e-mobility.

[Magyar Hang]

European Commission giving €250 million to Hungary for vaccines and health care workers

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The European Commission is providing €250 million (US $283 million) in aid to Hungary this year and €104 million (US $118 million) next year. These funds will allow for the purchase of 13 million coronavirus vaccine doses licensed by the European Medicines Agency, and financial overtime compensation for some 7,000 doctors and nurses during the outbreak, the Brussels body announced on Friday.

The Commission will provide the funding as part of the REACT-EU package, which will support the sectors and workers most affected by closures due to the epidemic.

A spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed that the 1.8 billion Biontech-Pfizer vaccine doses contracted between the pharmaceutical company and the European Union in May this year will be available to EU Member States, and will be shipped between 2021 and 2023.

This amount will be enough to provide a third booster dose for children between the ages of 5 and 11, as well as donate large number of vaccines to countries without the financial means to obtain them on their own.

Magyar Hang notes that it is now partly clear why the Hungarian government had previously opted out of the EU’s joint procurement of vaccines.

Previously, the Hungarian government had justified its withdrawal from the joint procurement process on the grounds that it considered Pfizer’s vaccine too expensive. The news source notes that letting the European Union pay the bill instead of Hungary gets around that obstacle.

[Népszava, Magyar Hang]

European Commission decines Orbán’s request to end infringement proceedings against Hungary

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The European Commission has rejected Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s request to end certain infringement proceedings against Hungary. According to the committee’s vice-chair, these cases cannot be resolved by sending letters.

Viktor Orbán (pictured) wrote a letter on Monday to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. In it, he called for the immediate suspension of infringement proceedings against Hungary, which “undermine the territorial and national integrity of the Member States and the protection of their citizens.” The Prime Minister justified his request by saying that the migration situation at the Polish border requires a new legal environment. Orbán’s request was also supported by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The European Commission, on the other hand, politely but quickly rejected Hungarian Prime Minister’s request. In a press conference in Strasbourg, the committee’s vice-chair, Margaritis Schinas, said to journalists that strict rules govern these procedures, and that they cannot be abolished on political grounds.

“There is no political room for maneuver in infringement proceedings. These are strictly defined, by-the-book processes. The only way to close such a procedure is to resolve the case on which it is based,” said Margaritis Schinas, who added, “An infringement procedure cannot be stopped for political reasons or with letters.”

The Hungarian government has long argued that the European Commission is conducting infringement proceedings against Budapest as a political weapon.

“We are quite sure that our law is in line with European values ​​and the law, so I see no reason to change it. We believe it’s a type of revenge from Brussels after we took them to the European Court of Justice over mandatory quotas [on refugees]. Now a sudden infringement procedure is being launched. We understand what’s going on, but we believe that there is no legal basis for these infringement proceedings,” said Péter Szijjártó to Euronews in 2015.

In the past few years, Brussels has launched a series of infringement proceedings against Hungary in cases where Hungarian law is suspected of being incompatible with EU law. Such proceedings have been the subject of several lawsuits before the European Court of Justice.

The court has declared that the Hungarian “transit zone” at Hungary’s border at Röszke, which was eventually closed, was in breach of EU law. The “Stop Soros” laws were recently declared incompatible with EU law by the court. The most recent infringement case against Hungary under the Child Protection Act, which has been called homophobic and not in line with European values, was launched this summer.

[Euronews]

EU must stop infringement proceedings against Hungary, writes Orbán

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The European Commission must suspend all infringement proceedings that undermine Member States’ attempts to protect the territorial and national integrity and security of their citizens, wrote Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in a letter to the President of the European Commission.

In the letter to Ursula von der Leyen, made available to state news agency MTI by the Prime Minister’s press office, Orbán stressed that the situation at the eastern borders of the European Union and the discussions between the Commission and Hungary have left some key questions unanswered.

According to Orbán, global challenges call for increased resilience to crises, and it was in this spirit that Hungary decided last July that the country would not become an obstacle to the union’s financial recovery from the pandemic.

As the prime minister phrased it, “We need to recognize that the current emergency has to be addressed through special measures. Our security and territorial integrity are at stake.” Consequently, in this situation the current legal framework needs to be adapted to reality, and that “Member States cannot be held accountable or punished for applying workable – yet proportionate – solutions to the challenges that face us all,” Orbán wrote.

The European Commission is currently taking action against Hungary on several issues. Most recently, the European Commission sent a letter to the Hungarian and Polish governments last week announcing the start of the procedure related to the rule of law mechanism.

[Telex][Photo: ministerelnok.hu]

European Commission writes letter to Hungary on rule of law issue

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The European Commission has written a letter to the Hungarian government requesting information on decisions and actions in Hungary that the Commission claims violate both the EU’s financial interests and rule of law norms, writes Népszava.

In the “administrative letter” personally approved by Commission President Urusla von der Leyen (pictured) and sent to the Hungarian authorities on Friday night, the European Commission requested written information from the government on certain legal provisions that it considers in conflict with EU regulations.

The letter is not the same as the formal launch of the Rule of Law mechanism in Hungary, but it is a strong signal that the Brussels body has serious concerns about the misuse of EU funds and the impunity for high-level corruption in the country.

The government has eight weeks to respond to the concerns and questions raised by the Commission. If its answer does not meet the body’s expectations, Hungary could be one of the first Member States in the alliance to be subject to provisions protecting the EU’s financial interests against corrupt governments. The procedure, expected to take 6-8 months, may end with the suspension of EU funding.

In addition to Hungary, Poland also received a similar letter of inquiry from the European Commission.

The sending of this clarification inquiry precedes the formal procedure required by the Rule of Law mechanism, which has been in force since January.

However, the European Commission only intends to trigger the mechanism after the European Court of Justice has ruled on the legality of the legislation, which is expected early next year at the latest.

[Népszava]

Hungary ordered to pay fine by European Commission

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For the first time, Hungary has been ordered to pay a fine for non-compliance with a court ruling, reports Népszava in Brussels.

The European Commission asked the European Court of Justice on Friday to impose a fine for the Hungarian authorities’ failure to comply with a court ruling on asylum. The amount of the fine will not be public until the final judgment, according to Commission spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz, but will be set according to the circumstances of the issue and the member country’s capabilities.

Balázs Lehóczki, media spokesperson for the European Court of Justice, said that judges may overrule a Commission proposal to impose a fine, but this doesn’t typically occur. The proceedings in any case may take up to a year and a half.

The EU court ruled in December that certain elements of the Hungarian asylum legislation were illegal. In particular, it claimed that Hungarian authorities had restricted the access of third-country nationals to be able to claim asylum, detained asylum seekers, and deported illegal immigrants from the country at the Hungarian-Serbian border without any means of legal redress.

Judges also objected to the operation of the so-called “transit zones,” which have since been abolished by the government, and found forced restraints used by authorities to be illegal, although they are still being used.

The court’s judgment on the matter was final and binding, but Hungary has not fully enforced it since it was delivered 11 months ago.

The Commission’s current press release stated that Hungary did not take the necessary measures to ensure effective access to its asylum procedure, nor did it specify the conditions under which remedy may be granted. The College of Commissioners had already warned the government of its obligations in June, to no effect.

Due to a lack of compliance from the Hungarian government, the Commission felt no other option was available but to ask the court to impose a lump sum financial penalty and a daily fine on Hungary.

Poland was recently ordered to pay a fine of one million Euros a day for likewise running afoul of recent EU court rulings. The Warsaw government has indicated that it would not be paying the fine, and so the amount of the financial penalty will be deducted automatically from aid the country receives from the EU.

[Népszava]