European Union recommends suspending approximately $7.5 billion in funding to Hungary

The executive branch of the European Union recommended on Sunday that the bloc suspend about 7.5 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in funding to Hungary due to concerns about democratic backsliding and possible mismanagement of EU money.

EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn said that despite Hungary’s proposed measures to address shortcomings, the European Commission recommends the suspension of funds “estimated at €7.5 billion”.

The money would come from the “cohesion funds” granted to Hungary. This envelope of money, one of the largest tranches of the bloc’s budget, helps countries bring their economies and infrastructure up to EU standards.

Hahn said Hungary had until Nov. 19 to address the concerns. Any action to suspend funds must be approved by all 27 EU member countries, which requires a “qualified majority”, which amounts to 55% of the 27 members representing at least 65% of the total population of the EU. EU.

The European Commission has for nearly a decade accused Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban of dismantling democratic institutions, taking control of the media and undermining minority rights. Orban, in office since 2010, denies the charges.

Speaking after a meeting of EU commissioners in Brussels, which unanimously endorsed the move, Hahn welcomed Hungary’s offer to fix the problem, saying the proposed remedies go “in the right direction”.

He said the measures could address some of the committee’s concerns if followed through and properly implemented. But he said ‘a risk to the budget at this stage remains, so we cannot conclude that the EU budget is sufficiently protected’.

Hungarian media reported that Orban’s nationalist government was set to announce new legislation as early as Monday. European lawmakers expressed concern last week that this was just a ploy to buy time.

In a resolution Thursday, lawmakers said Hungary’s nationalist government was deliberately trying to undermine the bloc’s democratic values.

They said the government in Budapest – which Orban describes as “illiberal democracy” – has become “a hybrid regime of electoral autocracy”. They partly blame EU member countries for turning a blind eye to possible abuses.

The French Greens parliamentarian who chaperoned the resolution to the assembly, Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, said that “for the first time, an EU institution is telling the sad truth, that Hungary is no longer a democracy”. .

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Mary I. Bruner