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Brussels asks to freeze 7,500 million aid to Hungary for putting the rule of law at risk

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It will depend on the 27, who have up to three months to decide

BRUSSELS, 18 (Moose Gazette)

The European Commission has proposed this Sunday to freeze up to 7,500 million euros of the European cohesion funds planned for Hungary in the period 2021-2027 in the face of the anti-democratic drift of the Government of Viktor Orbán and the fear that the management of these community resources will be affected by the threat to the rule of law in this country.

At a press conference in Brussels, the Budget Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, explained that the College of Commissioners has “unanimously” backed the proposal to suspend “65 percent” of the money committed for three Hungarian programs of the Cohesion and the prohibition of concluding tenders of public interest with direct or indirect management of European programs.

It is an “adequate and proportionate” measure, Hahan has defended, of a suspension that will affect the Hungarian operational programs for the environment and energy efficiency, integrated transport and territorial development.

The Hungarian response has been in the words of the minister without portfolio in charge of Regional Development and use of EU funds, Tibor Navracsics, who has assured that this freezing may not be 99 percent effective, so the request is “irrelevant “.

“The government has no intention of breaching its commitments, so the suspension of the 3,000 million (Hungarian forints) is irrelevant because up to 99 percent could be discounted,” Navracsics explained at a press conference collected by the Hungarian press.

In fact, Navracsics has highlighted that the decision of the European Commission is important because it opens the compliance phase and thus by November 19 it will be able to decide for itself if Hungary has fulfilled its commitments. If this were the case, he stressed, all conditionality procedures would be withdrawn. “We are moving in the right direction,” he stressed.

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Navracsics has recalled that 17 commitments have been reached with the EU and that this Sunday the first legal amendments will be presented to comply with them. A second package is expected to be presented on Friday.

The final decision remains in the hands of what the Twenty-seven decide within a maximum period of three months, a period during which they must assess whether the measures that Budapest has promised to implement by November are sufficient to correct the identified systemic irregularities, with reforms of depth to strengthen the fight against corruption and fraud.

The suspension of European aid in the event of serious threats to the rule of law in EU countries is a measure planned since last January in the conditionality mechanism included in the new rules for the management of the EU Budget.

Once Brussels officially presents the proposal to the Council, no later than September 22, Hahn said, the Twenty-seven have one month to make a decision, extendable for two more months. The commissioner has advanced since he trusts that the Council will make use of the maximum period in its evaluation because the reforms promised by Orbán need time for their legal processing and application.

The case dates back to last April, when Brussels began the conditionality procedure to freeze funds destined for Hungary to prevent their opaque use. Then Budapest refused to cooperate to rectify the situation and it was not until this summer, when the Commission put a number on the funds at risk of suspension, that the Hungarian authorities began a dialogue with the community services to seek an agreement.

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Hahn has assured in his appearance this Sunday that Budapest has proposed “17 very specific measures” that in his opinion are “on the right track” but that at the moment they are only about promises, which at the moment “are nothing”, for which the Council will have to monitor if they are carried out before taking a decision.

In his first draft, Hahn proposed last July to freeze up to 70% of the aid in question, but has finally reduced the scope of the punishment to 65% in view of the “seriousness” of the measures proposed by Budapest.

“The point is that we continue with the promises, announcements, they are serious but they are nothing more, that is why we have decided to leave the high percentage until the measures are fulfilled and applied as expected,” Hahn reasoned before the press.

In the range of reforms that the EU expects to protect common funds from influence peddling, corruption and other fraud in Hungary, the creation of an Integrity Authority with expanded powers and an Anti-Corruption ‘task force’ with safeguards that ensure the participation of all civil society.

The Hungarian authorities must also strengthen the legal framework against corruption, guarantee transparency in access to public and European funds by foundations, strengthen audit and control mechanisms and reform the judicial system so that the decisions of the Prosecutor’s Office can be appealed. .

-. Signature: LAU/COUS .-

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