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Rule of law: EU threatens Hungary to deprive it of EU funds

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Tuesday that the institution had decided to launch an unprecedented procedure against Hungary to suspend the payment of European funds in the event of violations of the rule of law. An announcement welcomed with applause in Parliament, two days after the re-election of Viktor Orban as head of Hungary.

The European Commission has decided to launch an unprecedented procedure against Hungary to suspend the payment of European funds in the event of violations of the rule of law, the president of this institution, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on Tuesday. The announcement was greeted with applause in the European Parliament, two days after a fourth election victory in a row for sovereigntist leader Viktor Orban in Hungary.

Problems with public procurement and corruption

EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn “spoke today (Tuesday) with the Hungarian authorities and informed them that we will now send the letter of formal notice to activate the mechanism. This triggers a procedure with precise deadlines “, Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament. She did not specify what the contents of this letter were. But in a previous letter sent to Budapest in November, the Commission expressed concerns about problems with public procurement, conflicts of interest and corruption. The issue of corruption is also the reason for the Commission’s blocking of the Hungarian recovery plan.

The “conditionality” procedure never used before

The “conditionality” mechanism is a procedure in force since January 2021, but never used yet, to suspend the payment of European funds to a country where violations of the rule of law affecting the finances of the EU are found. . A possible suspension or reduction of payments must be endorsed by at least 15 Member States out of 27, and such a procedure should take between six and nine months.

The Court of Justice of the EU confirmed the legality of this regulation in mid-February, rejecting the actions for annulment by Hungary and Poland. The European Parliament had been pressing the Commission for months to activate this mechanism, but the latter had decided to wait for the green light from the Court before acting.

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