On Wednesday, during the plenary session of the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg, majority left-wing MEPs once again engaged in a debate on their favourite topic: the EU funds that Hungary is entitled to. Tensions have been escalating between EU bodies regarding the money, with the EP asserting that the European Commission unblocked some of the frozen EU funds for Hungary to curry favour with Viktor Orbán ahead of a crucial European Council summit in support of Ukraine last December.
As a result, the EP is contemplating legal action against the Commission, asserting that the conditions it imposed on the release of EU funds have not been met. Moreover, certain left-wing MEPs are determined to strip Hungary of its voting rights in EU decision-making. However, before the MEPs cast their votes on Thursday, they deliberated on the issue in the Wednesday plenary and, as customary, did not hold back in their criticism of Hungary.
At the outset of the debate, Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, representing Belgium, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Council, promptly emphasized that the rule of law would be a top priority during the Belgian presidency, as it stands as a pillar of the Union. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen then took the podium and made an unexpected admission.
While defending the Commission's position that the funds due to Hungary were rightfully released last December, she added that the additional €20 billion was being withheld due to concerns about LGBTQ rights and Hungary's migration policy, among other issues.
Stripping away the bureaucratic language from the Commission President's speech, this implies that even though Hungary has fulfilled the conditions the Commission set for accessing all EU funds, their disbursement won't in fact occur unless the government supports gender propaganda and endorses Brussels' misguided migration policy.
Following Von der Leyen's speech, the ‘heavyweight’ speakers took the stage. Guy Verhofstadt was the first among the ‘anti-Hungarian League’ to speak, and, as expected, he immediately targeted Viktor Orbán. The Belgian politician asserted that the Commission President had succumbed to blackmail from the Hungarian Prime Minister and warned of the EP's backlash if such concessions continued. Verhofstadt argued against compromising with Orbán, advocating instead for the removal of his voting rights.
Taking the podium next was Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, a Frenc politician, who asserted that Viktor Orbán bore sole responsibility for the demise of European democracy. She claimed that the Hungarian Prime Minister was dismantling the EU and infringing upon civil liberties.
The Green MEP, known for her previous criticisms of Hungary, labelled Orbán as the ‘voice of the Kremlin,’
accusing him of having blackmailed European decision-makers for years.
Expressing bewilderment at the inaction of leaders from other member states against the Hungarian Prime Minister, Delbos-Corfield called for measures to prevent a 'quasi-autocracy' from assuming control during Hungary's EU presidency in July.
Of course, Daniel Freund could not skip the opportunity to denigrate the Hungarian government, either. According to the German politician, who has apparently made it his mission to do as much harm to Hungary as possible, Viktor Orbán orchestrated the most significant blackmail scheme in history. Referring to the EP’s planned legal action against the Commission, Freund concluded his speech with the declaration: ‘See you in court.’
The debate also saw the participation of Finnish politician Petri Sarvamaa, whose initiative to trigger Article 7.2 proceedings against Hungary was endorsed by 120 MEPs. Sarvamaa called on the Commission to give due consideration to the concerns raised by MEPs and, akin to Freund, warned of potential legal consequences for the EU executive should it not do so.
Merely a day after proposing to exclude Hungarian students and researchers from participating in Erasmus+, left-wing Momentum MEP Katalin Cseh also addressed the debate. The politician, affiliated with the Liberal Renew group, criticized the committee, asserting that it failed to grasp the extent of the damage caused by the deal with Orbán. Cseh stated: ‘He is destroying democracy, weakening the European Union, he is blackmailing us.’ The left-wing politician contended that the committee's decision underscored the European Parliament as the sole guardian of democracy in Europe.
Fidesz MEP Balázs Hidvéghi responded to the onslaught of accusations, slanders, and smears. Discussing the EU funds, Hidvéghi emphasized that Hungary should receive every last cent it is entitled to. ‘If you want to witness a genuine crisis of the rule of law, you should look at what is happening in Poland these days,’ Hidvéghi retorted.
In response to the suggestions that Hungary's voting rights should be taken away, the politician expressed:
‘This is shameful and absurd...you are digging the grave of the European Union in this way...
Wake up and turn back from this crazy path.’
The European Parliament is set to reconvene today, Thursday 18 January, to vote on advancing the Article 7 procedure against Hungary to the next stage.