10th Dec 2023

EU Parliament parties urge 'no money for Orbán's Hungary'

  • The groups' letter called on the EU Commission to hold back EU subsidies for Viktor Orbán’s government (Photo: Council of the European Union)
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A majority of the European Parliament's political groups issued a joint letter on Monday (24 April) criticising Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán's government, and urged the EU Commission not to release funds to the country.

The Christian Democrat, Social Democrat, liberal Renew and Green groups with the smaller Left group warned that the latest legislative developments in Hungary "will further contribute to undermining" EU values and the deterioration of the rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy.

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The letter scolded Orban's nationalist government for rolling back rights for LGBTI people and curtailing democratic rights —for instance the freedom of expression of teachers, and their right to strike.

The five parties, which represent 530 MEPs in total in the 705-member European Parliament, also criticised a new law claimed to update whistleblower protection rules — but which would allow citizens to anonymously report individuals deemed as contesting the "constitutionally recognised role of marriage and the family".

That draft law was approved by Hungary's parliament on 11 April, but country's president has not signed it into law yet.

The letter called on the commission to hold back subsidies for Orbán's government until liberal democratic principles are met.

"In our view, it clearly makes it impossible to give a positive assessment of the first payment under the Recovery and Resilience Plan," the letter of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), Socialists & Democrats, Renew Europe, the Greens/EFA and The Left said, referring to the official name of the Covid-19 recovery fund.

Fifteen EU countries, including France and Germany, have already started court proceedings against Orbán's government for what they see as discriminatory LGBTI policies.

That particular law has outlawed the depiction of homosexuality or divergent gender identities to minors in media content. A ruling on that at the European Court of Justice is not expected until next year.

The parties' warning came as on Monday morning Hungary's justice minister, Judit Varga, and EU justice commissioner Dider Reynders met to discuss Budapest's ongoing judicial reform plans, which are a bid to try to unblock billions of EU funds.

Talks ended without a major breakthrough, AP reported, although Varga did say on Facebook that technical agreement was reached on judicial matters.

If the commission gives its green light the Hungarian parliament could pass the legislation during May, helping to unblock some of the EU funds held up over Budapest's democratic backsliding.

A commission spokesperson said "technical discussions have progressed well regarding the judicial reforms", and that the "further internal steps will follow for the commission to analyse the progress made".

The judicial conditions are part of the 27 "milestones" blocking the disbursement of the €5.8bn of EU funds stuck in Hungary's recovery fund, but are also a precondition for getting the cohesions funds, held up over corruption and rule of law concerns.

Rare dissent

Last Friday, in a rare display of dissent, Hungary's president Katalin Novák, previously a minister in Orbán's government, sent the law allowing the anonymous reporting of same-sex families back to parliament.

Novák wrote in a letter to the speaker of Hungary's parliament, himself a core member of Orbán's Fidesz party, that she believed elements of the draft law "may serve to increase mistrust between members of the community".

Hungary's constitution, approved by the two-thirds parliamentary majority of Orbán's right-wing populist Fidesz party in 2011, outlaws same-sex marriage, and the government has prohibited same-sex couples from adopting children.

EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo

The EU executive, on the other hand, is expected to approve Hungary's recovery plan, worth €5.8bn, but only would disburse actual money if Hungary delivers on some 27 key reforms.

EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary

Prime minister Viktor Orbán's government has to implement 27 measures "fully and correctly" before any payment from the €5.8bn recovery fund can be made, or the suspended €7.5bn of cohesion funds can be unblocked.

MEPs urge Orbán to act to unblock EU money

MEPs tasked with controlling spending of EU funds said they continued to have "great concerns" on how Hungary is handling EU money and called on prime minister Viktor Orbán's government to implement the necessary reforms to unblock suspended EU funds.


Hungary's EU funds and corruption in focus This WEEK

EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn is set to travel to Budapest on Tuesday (2 May) as negotiations to unlock billions of EU funds, held up because of concerns over judicial independence, made some progress last week.


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