The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced in the plenary of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (France), during a question and answer session, that she has decided to send the Hungarian authorities a letter of formal notification to start this process, although it may take months for Brussels to present the case to Member States to take a formal decision to withhold funds.
The Hungarian Government has already reacted to this announcement, calling the Brussels decision a “mistake”.
Gergely Gulyas, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff, urged the European Commission “not to punish Hungarian voters for not expressing an opinion Brussels liked in Sunday’s elections”, which the Fidesz party won by a large margin.
That mechanism, which has been in place since January 2021 but has not yet been used, will for the first time make it possible to suspend the payment of community funds when violations of the principles of the rule of law are detected – such as judicial independence, equality before the law or separation. of powers – which 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 led to the conclusion that one should “proceed to the next step”, which is to send the formal notification of the beginning of the process.
“This activates a process that has a specific timetable, there is an ongoing process”, explained Von der Leyen, who assured that “no case has been lost” of violation of the rule of law that jeopardizes the proper use of community funding in the Hungary, a country in tension with Brussels for several years due to its corruption problems and lack of judicial independence.
The use of this mechanism makes it possible, as a last resort, to freeze the disbursement of cohesion funds, agricultural funds and even the recovery fund for Hungary, the major beneficiary of the cohesion lines, with €22,500 million until 2027.
The European Parliament greeted the announcement with a standing ovation, after months of insisting that this instrument should be used to protect European funds in countries such as Poland or Hungary and even threatened to take the European Commission to the European Court of Justice for not launching the their own mechanisms.
The implementation of this mechanism comes just two days after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán won a fourth consecutive term, thanks to a resounding victory in Sunday’s national elections, and cites the European institutions and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as “opponents”.
BM // MLS