According to European Union Commissioner for Budget Johannes Hahn, there is no specific deadline for the ongoing proceedings regarding Hungary, so it cannot be ruled out that the closure of the case might extend to the mandate of the next Commission in 2024.
‘We still have significant issues that need to be resolved, so we are far from reaching the goal,’ Budget Johannes Hahn declared at his hearing at the European Parliament with regard to the ongoing proceedings against Hungary. The Austrian politician referred to the establishment of the Integrity Authority as a step forward, but insisted that the Hungarian government has not yet fulfilled all the requirements necessary to access the frozen EU funds.
The Commissioner also stated that it is not true that the Commission is hindering negotiations. The Commission is interested in finding a solution, but it must be a solution that serves the interests of Hungarian citizens. Hahn also mentioned that since there is no time limit for the rule of law procedure, the dispute may extend to after the establishment of the next European Commission, that is, until 2024. Hahn added that considering the example of the Hungarian case dragging on for years, it might be worth considering changes to the procedural rules in the future.
‘We currently have no deadline. We sit down, negotiate, I provide a report, and then we meet again. Perhaps the whole case will extend beyond the establishment of the next European Commission,’ he said. The Budget Commissioner refuted the Hungarian government’s claims that the EU had changed its expectations regarding the funds along the way. Hahn stated that the Commission had clearly communicated its expectations and had not made any changes to them.
‘We clearly stated what we expect. We have repeated this multiple times and shared our list of expectations, which has always remained the same. No one can say that we were not clear,’ the EU Commissioner said. ‘We have reiterated this multiple times and have not changed the conditions. However, the Hungarian side claimed that we had moved the goalposts. No, we have always been clear about what we expect.’
The EU politician was responding to Fidesz politicians who have recently complained that the government had already fulfilled the Commission’s original requirements, but Brussels came up with additional demands. Most recently, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó expressed this sentiment in early May in Brussels.
‘The rule of law expectations of the Brussels body are like an infinite GPS.
You enter your destination, and then you realise that it was, let’s say, five kilometres away, but you have been driving for three days, and the GPS keeps telling you to turn right, turn left, make a U-turn.’ The minister deemed it unfair that Hungary has already met the requirements, and yet there always seems to be another condition all down the line. He stated that the EU has been withholding the funds out of political bias, unfairly and without any legal basis.
As we reported earlier, Tibor Navracsics also spoke on the topic recently, and he also expressed frustration with the situation.
‘I am moderately optimistic about the visit. I don’t think they will have a very positive overall opinion. Everyone forms the opinion they want. I would like us to reach a conclusion based on data and objectively verifiable or refutable questions, and for them to accept our data and perspectives’, the minister of regional development and chief negotiator for the government said, following his negotiations with the European Parliament’s Budget Control Committee. According to the minister, the government definitely wants to reach an agreement with the European Union, and has already done a lot, from the establishment of the Integrity Authority to judicial reforms.
Regarding the Erasmus controversy, Tibor Navracsics remarked that soon a new commissioner will take over the field of education in the Union. The Hungarian government will contact him regarding the matter, but he said it was obvious that the change will not make the situation easier.