The Hungarian government is vetoing the issuance of a joint statement by the countries belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) after a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. This information was first reported by Népszava, stating that the EEA Council, which includes the 27 member states of the European Union as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, could not approve a closing declaration due to the resistance of the Hungarian government.
According to the newspaper, Sweden, currently holding the rotating presidency of the EU, informally initiated the proposal for the EU member states to adopt a joint statement after the meeting and send it to the other three EEA countries. An insider stated that the Swedes concluded that ‘consensus cannot be reached on a viable draft text.’ Meanwhile, another source mentioned that the Swedes did make every effort, but their attempts ‘ran aground due to the inflexibility of the Hungarians.’
Representatives of EEA countries hold summit meetings twice a year, and after the discussions, usually adopt a common resolution, which has more of a symbolic than practical significance. Hungary first posed an obstacle to such a resolution in autumn 2021.
Népszava contacted the Permanent Representation of Hungary in Brussels to inquire about the reasons of Budapest for not supporting the resolution, but they did not receive a response. However, sources in Brussels told the newspaper that the Hungarian government’s resistance was in connection with concerns over migration-related policies.
The original cause of the dispute lies in the almost decade-long controversy around the Norwegian Fund.
The dispute dates back to 2014 when the Hungarian government objected to the distribution mechanism of the funds that Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway set aside to support new EU member states in need of catching up with the more developed Western countries. There are two financial mechanisms through which funding is channelled: the EEA Grants and the Norwegian Fund, totalling 77 billion forints. Nine years ago, the Hungarian government wanted to take away the decision from the Norwegian Fund on how approximately fur billion forints of the funding should be allocated to civil organisations, claiming that there was a left-liberal leaning bias in the distribution. However, Norway did not yield to the pressure, which led to the suspension of the payments from both the EEA Grants and the Norwegian Fund.
The Hungarian government then engaged in negotiations with the Norwegians to find a solution, but they were unable to reach an agreement. As a result, Hungary lost access to the entire 77 billion forints. The veto in autumn 2021 was also related to the Norwegian Fund. Since then, the Hungarian government has vetoed several other decisions within the European Union, some of which were related to the conflict in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.