Hungary’s EU treasury under threat after European Commission finds reforms insufficient – POLITICO

Hungary has failed to adopt promised rule of law reforms, the European Commission decided on Wednesday, putting billions of EU dollars for the country at risk.

The determination comes as Brussels tussles with Viktor Orbán’s government over the release of €7.5 billion in regular EU payments and €5.8 billion in recovery grants in the event of a pandemic – money the EU has temporarily frozen due to democratic backsliding issues in Hungary.

As the Commission on Wednesday recommended approving Hungary’s plan to spend its stimulus funds, it was clear the country wouldn’t get the money until it implemented 27 upgrades. specific to the rule of law.

In the meantime, the Commission has also concluded that Hungary has failed to deliver on its earlier commitment to adopt 17 rule of law reforms needed to access the €7.5 billion in EU funds, which are blocked under a mechanism allowing the EU to freeze funds at risk of corruption.

EU countries will decide whether to adopt, modify or reject the Commission ruling by December 19.

The move is something of a surprise. As recently as last week, Brussels and Budapest were expected to reach an agreement on releasing the money. But Wednesday’s decision appears to be a little more nuanced – giving the go-ahead for a spending plan but not the money, blaming Hungary for failing to deliver on earlier promises and essentially pushing it on EU countries to make one last call.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with key commissioners on Wednesday to finalize this way forward. Their recommendation will have to be formalized next week by the entire College of Commissioners.

On Wednesday, the Commission was particularly critical of Hungary’s new “integrity authority”, questioning its power and independence, as well as Budapest’s progress on commitments on asset declaration rules and the ability to review the decision of a prosecutor on whether to pursue a case.

Brussels also presented a new list of 27 reforms, or “super milestones”, that Hungary must adopt to receive its 5.8 billion euros in pandemic recovery funds. The 27 reforms include the 17 previous commitments agreed by the two parties during their discussions on the preservation of the 7.5 billion euros. Other conditions include the realization of the judicial reforms promised by Hungary, as well as the adoption of rules for auditing and reporting on EU funds.

Once the Commission formally adopts its decisions next week, it will be up to the Council of the EU to support or reject them by qualified majority – comprising 55% of EU countries and 65% of the population – what should happen at a conference of finance ministers. Meet.

The exact date of this meeting is still unclear, as the one initially scheduled for December 6 may be too early for countries to go through national parliamentary procedures. Thus, the Czech Presidency of the Council could schedule another ministerial meeting later in December.

Approval of Hungary’s plan and corresponding liquidity is crucial for a number of top EU priorities, including an €18 billion aid package for Ukraine and a global agreement on a minimum rate corporate tax, all of which Hungary has blocked.

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