If the proposals are approved, they could be endorsed by the Hungarian parliament in April which would clear major blocks and move toward unraveling the $30.5 billion from the European Union’s pandemic recovery plan during this year
Hungary reaches an agreement with the European Union, that would bring the nation closer to accessing €28 billion ($30.5 billion) of frozen funds. The funds were halted due to concerns about fundamental rights and rule of law, reports Bloomberg. The European Union’s executive officials are yet to respond to the Hungarian proposals and are expected to act in response to central judicial reforms in the coming week, according to Janos Boka, the official envoy to the EU of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
If the proposals are approved, they could be endorsed by the Hungarian parliament in April which would clear major blocks and move toward unraveling the $30.5 billion from the European Union’s pandemic recovery plan during this year. According to European Union officials, discussions are underway and a deal could be reached soon, reports Bloomberg. Christian Wigand, European Commission chairperson stated that the negotiations are continuing.
In an interview, Janos Boka stated that Hungary is currently very close to an agreement, and they don’t see any open political questions remaining. The European Union decided to freeze billions of dollars to Hungary due to corruption and rule of law problems. The decision came as a surprise to Orban and was done in an effort to reverse a series of constitutional changes that the commission found undermining law and judicial sovereignty.
EU had denied €22 billion in cohesion funds over concerns of judicial independence and other issues including the failure to comply with the European Charter of fundamental rights on issues such as academic rights, LGBTQ rights, and the right to asylum. The decisions came after Orban had condemned Brussels for reaching into the affairs of Hungary while using billions of European Union aid to finance liberal democracy that disdains the bloc’s liberal values.
The commission had already set several conditions for Hungary which are known as the super milestones that cover the counteractive measures to tackle issues related to the usage of EU funds and regaining the recovery funds, which also includes the requirements for the judiciary. Boka stated that the efforts on the remaining demands are not progressing as fast as they expect it to be as “we see new concerns popping up on behalf of the commission from time to time, which further complicate the process.”
EU and education advocates have criticized certain education policies the Orban’s government took and cited them as an attempt by Orban to assert control over the academic freedom of the nation. The officials expected Hungary to gain access to its recovery funds in the third quarter of this year, but the process is moving forward at a much slower pace than anticipated. The agreement on the judiciary reforms would be an important aspect of building the required political trust. In accordance with the changes agreed with the commission, Hungary will strengthen the powers of the National Judicial Council which is judge-led.
This also includes its ability to elect a Supreme Court President. The changes could help Hungary to unlock 22 billion euros that are marked for cohesion funds. Budapest will also establish an automatic case allocation system at the Supreme Court for the purpose of limiting the risk of political influence. Boka also added that it would limit or remove the barriers for judges to refer questions to the European Court of Justice along with limiting the possibility of public authorities presenting objections to the constitutional court.
“We understand that by implementing these four super-milestones, we also meet this so-called horizontal enabling conditions that would open up the possibility to have access to EU funds from the cohesion side,” stated Boka.