Rule of Law Violations: EU Takes Action Against Hungary

Status: 05.04.2022 5:16 PM

It is a historic step: the European Union is taking action against Hungary for its violations of the rule of law. This was announced by Commission President von der Leyen. The country is now being threatened, among other things, by cutting off EU funds.

Hungary is the first country to face legal action over potential violations of the rule of law – which could lead to cuts to EU funds. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that her authority will take the first step in the so-called rule of law mechanism. The European Union Commission reported this to the Hungarian authorities.

Hungary’s “corruption problem”

“In Hungary we have made it clear that the problem is corruption,” von der Leyen said. The Brussels authority accuses Orban’s government of allowing EU funds to seep into the dark channels.

Currently, a common denominator cannot be found. Von der Leyen received applause for her announcement in Parliament. For EU funds to actually be cut, the final step still requires the approval of at least 15 EU countries with 65 percent of the EU population. Before that, Budapest has several opportunities to comment on the allegations.

The EU’s Rule of Law Mechanism has been in effect since the beginning of 2021. Its purpose is to ensure that violations of the rule of law, such as the separation of powers, no longer go unpunished if they threaten to misuse EU funds.

Poland and Hungary get billions

Poland and Hungary considered themselves particularly at the focus of the instrument, and therefore lodged a complaint with the European Court of Justice. However, he dismissed the lawsuits in February. Both countries receive several billion euros from the joint budget each year.

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However, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban should feel encouraged in his path. His right-wing nationalist party Fidesz apparently won the parliamentary elections on Sunday. She received 53 per cent of the vote, thus securing a constitutionally amended two-thirds majority in Parliament for the fourth time in a row.

The European Parliament has been putting pressure on the EU Commission to launch the rule of law mechanism for a long time. However, the authority has always emphasized that it wants to wait for the decision of the European Court of Justice. As a result, von der Leyen said, no case was lost. Parliament has even sued the EU Commission before the European Court of Justice for its hesitation – and the proceedings are still ongoing.

‘Good news’ but also ‘missed’

Accordingly, MEPs welcomed the von der Leyen declaration. “It is absolutely right that Ursula von der Leyen should impose sanctions for the Orban government’s massive violations of the rule of law,” said Daniel Freund, a Green party MP. But he criticized at the same time, saying: “But it may already be too late for Hungary’s democracy.” The EU Commission missed the time to take consistent action against Orbán by years.

FDP deputy Moritz Koerner spoke of “good news for democracy in Europe”. “However, the delayed activation also has a pleasant taste.” With the belated decision, von der Leyen gave Prime Minister Orban another four years in office. He can now continue to “demolish Hungarian democracy”.

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