Despite considerable concerns about the rule of law in Hungary, the EU Commission released several billion euros for the country in December. Shortly before an important summit, the EU Parliament is now increasing the pressure.
The European Parliament is investigating the Commission’s controversial release of EU funding for Hungary and may want to take legal action against it. A resolution adopted in Strasbourg mandates Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee and legal service to review the release of funds as quickly as possible. If there is evidence of violations of EU law, the case should be brought before the European Court of Justice.
The background to this is the EU Commission’s decision to release around ten billion euros in frozen EU funds for the country, despite ongoing criticism of the rule of law in Hungary. The Brussels authorities justified the step at the end of last year by saying that Budapest had met the necessary requirements.
The EU blocked the funds because of concerns that too little was being done to combat corruption and protect the rule of law under Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The EU Commission has been accusing Hungary of undermining EU standards and fundamental values for years. The authority launched a number of infringement proceedings and took Hungary to the European Court of Justice several times.
EU MPs: Von der Leyen is allowing himself to be blackmailed
This doesn’t go far enough for the European Parliament. MPs had criticized the release of funds across party lines and accused Commission President Ursula von der Leyen of allowing herself to be blackmailed by Hungary. Orban had previously announced that he would block an EU aid package worth billions for Ukraine in the fight against Russia. Critics therefore suspect that the release of the funds was intended to persuade Orban to give up his veto.
“The fact that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is simultaneously demanding billions in EU funds while denigrating the EU Commission, President von der Leyen and the European Parliament with absurd conspiracy theories shows the double standards with which he works,” said CSU MEP Monika Hohlmeier. It is therefore right for the EU Parliament to target the decision to release the funds.
Von der Leyen defended the move on Wednesday. Budapest had passed a law for the independence of the judiciary, the German said in the EU Parliament in Strasbourg. “This is what we asked for and this is what Hungary delivered.”
Legal proceedings would probably take years
The European Parliament can take the EU Commission to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) if it suspects a violation of the EU treaties. However, such a process would probably take years and the current commission could then no longer be in office. European elections will take place in June. Now the legal service is first commissioned to write an assessment. On this basis, a decision should then be made about the next steps with regard to a possible lawsuit.
The MPs last sued the Commission in 2021. At that time it was about the so-called rule of law mechanism. This stipulates that EU countries can have funds from the common budget reduced if there is a risk of misuse of the money due to violations of the rule of law. Parliament had accused the Brussels authority of not applying these rules, but withdrew the complaint after the Commission triggered the mechanism against Hungary.
Motion of no confidence against von der Leyen?
So far, other budget funds amounting to almost twelve billion euros as well as billions in Corona aid for Hungary remain blocked. In the event that the Commission releases further funds without the conditions for this being met, Parliament wants to reserve the right to take further political and legal steps, the resolution states.
This could include, for example, a vote of no confidence, which if successful would require the Commission to resign. “In December, Ursula von der Leyen sold off the rule of law in the EU like in a winter sale,” criticized FDP MP Moritz Körner. The EU Parliament is not taking any further action. “If Ursula von der Leyen continues to give away money to Orban, the liberal faction will use its voting power and introduce a motion of no confidence against von der Leyen.”
We are now looking forward to February 1st with excitement: then the heads of state and government of the EU states will meet unscheduled in Brussels to discuss a new aid package worth billions for Ukraine. Orban recently blocked a decision on this.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.