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Weeklies on withheld EU funds

December 5th, 2022

Four opposition weeklies find the government guilty of running the risk that at least some of the EU transfers destined for Hungary will be lost. A pro-government pundit attributes the suspension of payments by the European Union to the political arrogance of its leaders.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Zoltán Farkas suggests that Hungarians who dislike Prime Minister Orbán are in two minds about what they want to happen to the EU transfers. (On 30 November, the European Commission accepted Hungary’s recovery and resilience plan but proposed that payments be suspended until its rule of law concerns are dispelled. See BudaPost, December 2.) On the one hand, they are tempted to wish for the transfers to be withheld indefinitely, in the hope that the ensuing economic difficulties might erode Fidesz’s popularity. On the other hand, they also live in this country and therefore do not wish it to sink into recession and a deep financial crisis. Before deciding to wish for a quick resolution to the conflict between the government and the European Commission, Farkas continues, opposition-minded Hungarians realise that in case of such a compromise, the ‘Orbán regime’ may remain unchanged until 2060 and are therefore in a schizophrenic state of mind, he writes.

In Jelen, Zoltán Lakner points out that the European Commission inflicted unprecedented sanctions on Hungary, although two-thirds of the transfers due during the current seven-year budget cycle do not fall under those sanctions and even the rest can be released if the government fulfils certain conditions that he believes are relatively easy to meet. Lakner predicts that the government can gradually get hold of the EU transfers without being forced to make effective political and rule-of-law concessions. Nevertheless, he concedes that the procedure adopted by the European Commission does enable it to keep the Hungarian government under strict control for several years to come. The European Union, he concludes, has never been nearer to its goal of establishing ‘a link between rule of law conditionality and actual transfers’.

In Élet és Irodalom, editor Zoltán Kovács claims that corruption is a substantial feature of the current administration, whose ‘heart has been replaced by a huge purse’. This regime, he believes, could not survive without diverting public money, but he doubts if the conditions being set by the European Union can produce substantial changes in the country. The ‘methodically built practice and structure of corruption’, Kovács suggests, cannot be straightened out from one day to another with improvised legislation.

In his customary weekly Magyar Hang editorial, Szabolcs Szerető likens the tug-of-war between the government and the Commission to a mediocre soap opera in innumerable episodes. He takes it for granted that Hungary will have access to at least some of the EU transfers originally destined for it, but doesn’t deem those payments sufficient to solve Hungary’s grave economic and social problems. And in any case, he doesn’t expect the first payments to reach Hungary before next summer.

In his weekly column in Mandiner, philosopher András Lánczi describes what is going on between Hungary and the European Union as ‘a process of humiliation’. European institutions don’t openly urge Prime Minister Orbán to resign, but Lánczi suspects that is precisely what they would like to achieve. Since they cannot, they indulge in humiliating Hungary, he suggests. Such a condescending and lecturing posture is often only noticed by those who are its victims, he writes and reminds his readers of the post-World-War-I peace treaties which humiliated Germany and thus became the main cause of World War II two decades later. He believes Western leaders have adopted a humiliating attitude towards Russia and this is what, in his view, led to the war in Ukraine. One doesn’t have to either understand or love Russia, he writes, but anyone who humiliates it should not be surprised by the violent backlash.


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