The European Union executive recommended on Sunday suspending some 7.5 billion euros in funding for Hungary over corruption, the first such case in the 27-nation bloc under a new sanction meant to better protect the rule of law.
The EU introduced the new financial sanction two years ago precisely in response to what it says amounts to the undermining of democracy in Poland and Hungary, where PM Viktor Orban subdued courts, media, NGOs and academia, as well as restricting the rights of migrants, gays and women during more than a decade in power.
“It’s about breaches of the rule of law compromising the use and management of EU funds,” said EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn. “We cannot conclude that the EU budget is sufficiently protected.”
He highlighted systemic irregularities in Hungary’s public procurement laws, insufficient safeguards against conflicts of interest, and shortcomings in other anti-graft measures.
Hahn said the Commission was recommending the suspension of about a third of cohesion funds envisaged for Hungary from the bloc’s shared budget for 2021-27 worth 1.1 trillion euros.
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EU countries now have up to three months to decide on the proposal. The Commission is already blocking some 6 billion euros in funds envisaged for Hungary in a separate Covid economic recovery stimulus over the same corruption concerns.
Orban, who calls himself a “freedom fighter” against the world view of the liberal West, denies that Hungary is any more corrupt than the others in the European Union.