European Parliament threatens Commission with lawsuit over funds for Hungary
The European Parliament on Thursday took a first step towards possible legal action against the European Commission in response to the release of 10.2 billion euros for Hungary.
The Commission decided to release that money in December ahead of a European summit. Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen explained that the move was justified because the government of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban had taken promised measures to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.
But many MEPs dispute that these measures are sufficient. They interpret the decision as a manoeuvre to buy Orban's silence after he threatened to block the opening of accession negotiations with Ukraine in the run-up to the summit. In the end, the Hungarian briefly left the room so that the decision could be taken "unanimously".
Ties with Russia
Orban, who has maintained good relations with Russia even after the invasion of Ukraine, also refused at the summit to agree to a revision of the multiannual budget that included a 50 billion euro support package for Ukraine until 2027.
In Thursday's resolution, MEPs from across the political spectrum threaten to challenge the Commission's decision on the funds in the European Court of Justice. They ask the Legal Affairs Committee to take the necessary measures "as soon as possible". The resolution was adopted by 345 votes to 104, with 29 MEPs abstaining.
The EU "must not give in to blackmail and trade off the strategic interests of the EU and its allies by abandoning its values"
MEPs cited the "need to protect the EU's institutions, values and funds during the forthcoming Hungarian presidency" and that the EU "must not give in to blackmail and trade off the strategic interests of the EU and its allies by abandoning its values".
Suspension of rights
MEPs also reiterated their call for member states to take the next step in the Article 7 procedure launched by the EU in 2018. This procedure could lead to the suspension of voting rights for member states that seriously violate the EU's fundamental values. The procedure, which requires unanimity, has been discussed for years.
Von der Leyen responded that the Commission is still blocking some 20 billion euros in funds for Hungary because of concerns about academic freedom, asylum rights and LGBTQI rights. She assured the Parliament that these funds will remain blocked "until Hungary meets the necessary conditions".
© EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP