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Weeklies on the future of EU funds to Hungary

September 26th, 2022

The five opposition-leaning weeklies doubt whether the European Commission can achieve full transparency in public procurements in Hungary, while pro-government commentators dismiss as unjust the whole procedure of making the transfer of EU funds conditional on rule of law compliance.

In Magyar Hang, László Arató reports from Brussels that the European Commission doesn’t trust the Hungarian government, and therefore will only suspend its proposal to withhold 65% of the cohesion funds if the legislation promised by the Hungarian government to guarantee the integrity of the use of EU funds is passed by Parliament by mid-December. Even after that, he adds, the Commission may freeze transfers if the measures envisaged prove ineffective.

In Jelen, former LMP MEP Benedek Jávor, who now represents the Mayor of Budapest in Brussels, takes it for granted that Hungary and the EU will agree in December on both the post-Covid Reconstruction and Resilience Funds and those for which the country is eligible in the EU’s seven-year budget. He adds, however, that the Commission will not actually disburse the first transfers before the end of next year.

In Élet és Irodalom Lajos Csepi, the former head of the State Property Agency which oversaw massive privatisation in the 1990s, doubts if the new authority on the integrity of public procurements will be up to its task. Even if it is, he suspects, the judiciary might not punish the guilty.

Magyar Narancs is also certain that the government will be successful in unblocking the EU funds currently suspended by the European Commission but is highly sceptical about the Commission’s ability to monitor the use of those transfers. The editors believe that the leaders of the European Union only use the threat to suspend the transfers to Hungary in order to prevent the Hungarian government from vetoing EU measures against Russia.

In her editorial in Heti Világgazdaság, Györgyi Kocsis believes that one would have to be a Martian to believe that corruption can be rooted out in Hungary. She suspects the government of trying to outsmart the European Commission by running the new authority to be set up to oversee public procurements.

On the pro-government side, Demokrata’s András Bencsik accuses the European Commission of being concerned about Hungary’s insistence on her sovereignty. In his view all rule of law complaints levelled at Hungary are just a smokescreen, to conceal such interference. With her fruitful eastern relations, he writes, Hungary may be seen as a dangerous example for other European countries to follow.

In Mandiner, Gergely Dobozi believes that the legal basis for suspending payments to Hungary is extremely shaky. Transfers could only have been withheld on the basis of a corresponding resolution by the European Council, he suggests, but no such resolution was ever passed. Instead, the Commission has just delayed discussions on both the post-Covid reconstruction and resilience funds and the transfers due under the 2021-28 budget, although the Hungarian proposals were tabled several months ago. In the name of the rule of law, he concludes, the European Commission is violating the very values of the rule of law.

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