Brussels (CvA) – According to three law professors, proceedings could be launched immediately against Hungary to cut EU funds.
As evidenced by an expert opinion commissioned by several MEPs, violations of the rule of law in Hungary threaten to seriously damage the European Union’s financial interests. This would meet the requirements for a procedure to suspend payments from the EU’s Community budget.
There may be significant amounts for Hungary. The country recently received some €6 billion a year from the regular EU budget. In addition, it expects about 7.2 billion euros in corona aid.
First procedures in the fall
The EU commission responsible for initiating sanctions procedures promised to launch the first procedure in the autumn that could lead to a reduction in EU funds for countries such as Hungary and Poland. If it appears that violations of the rule of law affect or threaten to harm the EU’s financial interests, then action must be taken, said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the European Parliament. The investigation is already underway.
At the same time, von der Leyen made it clear that the European Court of Justice has yet to rule on an objection that Poland and Hungary have filed against the sanctions instrument introduced last year before final decisions. The verdict will “bring clarity to everyone in Europe,” she said.
The European Parliament has criticized for months that the European Commission has not yet used the new instrument. It has therefore recently started proceedings for a lawsuit against the European Commission for failure to act. The measure is intended to encourage the authority to immediately apply the so-called conditionality mechanism. It provides that EU countries can reduce resources from the community budget if there is a risk of misuse of the resources due to violations of the rule of law.
“Risk to the EU budget”
Critics accuse both the Hungarian and Polish governments of exerting an influence on the judiciary that is incompatible with EU standards. They also see a threat to the EU budget as national law enforcement agencies and courts are usually responsible for investigating possible misuse of EU funds.
Poland and Hungary reject the charges. However, the presented legal opinion supports the view of the critics. In Hungary, for example, the authors see a lack of transparency in the management of EU funds and the lack of an effective national law enforcement agency to investigate and prosecute fraud. It also considers that there is no effective judicial review by independent courts of acts or omissions by the authorities dealing with the Union’s financial interests.
Dispute over budget cuts
“This study forms the legal basis for a sanctions procedure,” says fellow client Daniel Freund von den Grünen. The EU commission just needs to put it in an envelope and send it to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The conditions for austerity have been met too much. Professor Kim Scheppele of Princeton University and professors Daniel Kelemen of Rutgers University and John Morijn of the University of Groningen were involved in the report, according to Freund.
The lack of austerity procedures is due to the fact that, following an agreement between the Heads of State or Government, the European Commission should not act until the ECJ has decided on the action of Hungary and Poland. against the new regulation. This concession made the governments in Budapest and Warsaw lift their blockade on key EU budget decisions last year.
Hungary and Poland assume that the so-called conditionality mechanism is incompatible with current EU law. From a Polish point of view, only “objective and specific conditions” should apply to the allocation of money from the EU budget. The EU has no competence to define the term “rule of law”, it is said.
Criticism of the Homosexuality Act
Regardless of the discussion of austerity, politicians again called for the immediate repeal of the controversial Hungarian law restricting information about homosexuality and transsexuality. “This law uses the protection of children (…) as a pretext to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation,” said von der Leyen in the House of Representatives. “It deeply contradicts the fundamental values of the European Union – the protection of minorities, human dignity, equality and respect for human rights.”
Meanwhile, authorities in Hungary punished a bookstore for selling a fairy tale book about a so-called rainbow family without special labelling. The book “What a family!” by Lawrence Schimel and Elina Braslina should therefore have been labeled because it “doesn’t represent normal families”. The state bureau therefore imposed a fine of 250,000 forints (about 700 euros).
Dispute about corona aid
It is also unclear how the dispute between Hungary and the EU commission over the release of the first tranche of Corona aid will progress. According to data from the dpa, the Brussels government is currently refusing to give a positive assessment to the Hungarian plan for using the aid. According to information from EU circles, this is due to insufficient guarantees and precautions against improper use of the funds.
A positive assessment of the fund spending plan is a precondition for Hungary to receive money from the EU’s so-called Development and Resilience Facility (RFF). According to current calculations, about 7.2 billion euros has actually been set aside for the country.