Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The European Commission will unblock Hungary’s recovery funds, according to EU sources.
The EC blocked Hungary’s access to recovery money over disputes on the rule of law and democratic standards, demanding reforms in exchange for access to funds, according to Reuters reporting on Thursday.
More than 14 billion euro is at stake, about 10% of Hungary’s expected GDP this year, as Budapest implements reforms aimed at strengthening judicial independence and the fight against corruption.
Sources pointed out that friction between Hungary and the EC has been high in recent years over ideological divergence and democratic principles, with the Commission objecting to Hungary’s rules on the media, courts, NGOs and academics.
“They will get the money, but not without some serious conditions,” a senior EU official noted and added that officials are not allowed to talk publicly about it.
Sources noted that the Commission is to decide on the matter at the end of November, with one pointing out “money is what makes things move.”
The EC previously blocked Hungary’s access to funds for recovering from the coronavirus crisis worth 7.2 billion euro over lack of judicial independence.
Pointing to lack of anti-corruption safeguards, it blocked additional 7.5 billion euro earmarked for Hungary’s development in the coming years.
According to the EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), irregularities were present in close to 4% of Hungary’s EU funds spending in the period between 2015 and 2019, the highest in the EU.
Hungary pledged to implement 17 reforms to strengthen its anti-corruption framework to regain access to the money.
If Budapest is to regain access to the funds, it will have to continue implementing reforms, sources stressed and pointed out that the EC could block Hungary’s access to EU funds in the future for any non-compliance.
EU affairs ministers are to discuss Hungary’s progress later today, but will not make any decisions.
MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield noted “on paper, some of these measures [that Hungary offered] are good… but it needs monitoring and levels of pressure, not just for the next year but for a few years ahead.”
She predicted that the EC and the EU Council will unblock Hungary’s EU funds.