A large majority of EU member states have agreed in principle to freeze billions in payments from the European Community budget earmarked for Hungary. However, the sum is not to be as high as proposed by the EU Commission, several diplomats confirmed to German Press Agency late Monday evening after a meeting of the permanent representatives of the member states in Brussels.
The background to the unprecedented action against Hungary is concern that EU funds are not being used properly in the country because of inadequate measures against corruption. Shortly before the agreement, the EU Commission had renewed a recommendation that funding earmarked for Hungary amounting to around 7.5 billion euros should be frozen until the right-wing nationalist government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban had fully implemented promises to uphold the rule of law. Now, under a compromise, it is to be about 6.3 billion euros, because it is to be recognized that Hungary has already implemented some measures demanded by the country.
Necessary for the final adoption of the proposal is a qualified majority - that is, at least 15 of the 27 EU countries must agree and together represent at least 65 percent of the total population of the EU. This requirement has been met following agreement in the Permanent Representatives Committee and is now to be formalized in a written procedure leading up to the EU summit on Thursday.
In recent days, the German government had already signaled its approval of the crackdown on Hungary and expressed its support for the freezing of around 7.5 billion euros. "This is about our values, about our rule of law as the European Union as a whole," Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on the sidelines of a meeting with colleagues from other EU member states in Brussels. The Federal Republic of Germany supports "the very good proposals of the EU Commission.
The meeting of the permanent representatives of the Member States also approved the Commission's proposal to formally confirm Hungary's plan for the use of EU Corona aid. However, it also stipulates that the disbursements of up to 5.8 billion euros should not be made until a total of 27 conditions have been met. These include those formulated in the rule of law procedure.
Further developments are eagerly awaited, above all because Hungary has considerable means at its disposal to exert pressure on the EU. For example, the government in Budapest could block decisions for which unanimity is required in the EU. This is contradicted by the fact that, according to diplomats, Hungary even made concessions on Monday evening and abandoned its blockade against new Ukraine aid and an EU law on the international minimum tax. The reason is said to be the threat by EU states such as Germany to block approval of Hungary's plan to use EU Corona aid. This would have meant that 70 percent of the available funds of 5.8 billion euros would have lapsed at the end of the year.
Image by Karoly Megyeri