‘Don’t grant EU funds to Hungary’, MEPs tell Commission

In the most recent front of the conflict between EU parliamentarians and Viktor Orbán’s administration, political party leaders who represent more than 70% of the European Parliament have urged the European Commission to reject Hungary’s request for any more EU recovery funds.

MEPs requested the EU executive to halt funding for Budapest in a joint letter sent on Monday (24 April) by all political groups other than the European Conservatives and Reformists.

The letter ends by saying that it is “clearly impossible in our view to give a positive assessment of the first payment request under the Recovery and Resilience Plan.”

The European People’s Party, a center-right political party, the Socialist and Democrat party, the liberal group Renew Europe, the Greens, and the Left all signed the letter.

In the midst of a protracted, ongoing conflict with Brussels over the rule of law, democratic freedoms, and non-discrimination, ministers in Budapest expect to receive up to €20 billion in post-COVID recovery money.

The debate has also caused Hungarian MPs to postpone voting on legislation approving Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO and providing financial aid to Ukraine.

The EU members that have taken the longest to take advantage of the loans and subsidies intended to help their economies grow under the bloc’s €750 billion recovery resilience fund are Poland and Hungary, both of which have been involved in protracted legal issues with the EU.

MEPs, however, draw attention to a number of recently passed internal laws in Hungary in their letter, claiming that these measures will exacerbate “the deterioration of the rule of law, fundamental rights, and democracy.”

They specifically draw attention to the Status Law, a draft education law that “would drastically restrict the fundamental rights of the teachers, their freedom of expression, extremely reduce their professional autonomy, and drastically curtail their labor rights, including their right to strike.”

The letter warns that this could prevent employees from criticizing the current government’s particular ideological convictions both within and outside of the workplace.

The president of Hungary, Katalin Novák, blocked a draft law that would have allowed citizens to anonymously report actions that violated the Fundamental Law and the way of life in Hungary, including actions that violated the “constitutionally recognized role of marriage and the family,” according to MEPs.

Novák informed the MPs in Hungary that the bill “does not strengthen but rather weakens the protection of fundamental values.” Although the veto could yet be overturned, it is unusual for the president to openly oppose the administration.

15 EU nations joined the European Commission’s legal action against Hungary in March over changes made to a domestic child protection law that would prohibit minors from accessing any material that “propagates or portrays divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change, or homosexuality.”

The letter further advises the Commission to “use all tools at your disposal as soon as practicable.”

According to Hungarian ministers, new provisions on judicial independence and anti-corruption reforms have been made in an effort to allay the Commission’s worries.