They also launched a scathing attack on the European Commission, headed up by President Ursula von der Leyen, suggesting it was “not up to the job” of tackling the situation. The group – consisting of members from across the political spectrum – cited a 36-page legal study undertaken by three law professors, which they unveiled at a press conference yesterday (Wednesday).
This suggested Hungarian rule of law breaches were “so fundamental, frequent or widespread they represent a complete failure of the budgetary implementation and monitoring system in a member state.”
In April, the European Commission launched a rule of law probe against Hungary, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, leader of the right-wing Fidesz party.
The investigation was initiated following intense pressure from the European Parliament, with the Commission now needing to determine the infractions against Hungary.
The east European country has been at loggerheads with Brussels for years, and Article 7 procedure of the Treaty on the European Union, which can suspend certain rights from a member state, was initiated in respect of Mr Orban’s country on September 12, 2018.
German Green MEP Daniel Freund told reporters in Strasbourg: “It’s a little over €6billion (£5.1billion) per year.
“The biggest question is how much money will the commission suggest to freeze.”
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He also implicitly criticised former German defence minister Ms von der Leyen for dragging things out, saying: “The commission looking back was not up to the job.”
The legal study notes, among other things, what it calls Hungary’s track record of mismanagement of EU funds dating back more than a decade.
The authors outline Hungarian corruption including contaminated water flowing through lead pipes.
The report says: “Delivery of that water for human consumption should be suspended until the poisonous lead pipes are replaced.”
On June 30, Marton Nagy, economic development minister, said Hungary anticipated signing an agreement with the EU by the autumn of over £19billion in development funds in accordance with the bloc’s 2021-2027 budget.
Agreement over the funds has been delayed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s many battles with the EU, such as over migration, human rights and his stance on Russia, but he is under growing pressure to strike a deal, with the Hungarian currency hitting new lows and inflation surging.
Mr Nagy told a university forum: “We need to reel in EU funds and we must come to an agreement with the EU.”
Nevertheless, he admitted progress in talks on money from the EU’s pandemic recovery fund – a separate pot – was still proving difficult.
A day earlier, the European Commission said it had “no updates” on granting Hungary access to £13.3billion in COVID-19 economic stimulus funds.
The EU executive also said it was analysing Budapest’s response to concerns it had raised over Hungary’s public procurement system.