The move, announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, means Hungary becomes the first member state to potentially face funding cuts for breaking EU laws and standards.
“The Commission announced today to the Hungarian authorities that we will now send an official letter to launch the conditionality mechanism,” Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told members of the European Parliament on Tuesday, adding that there was a clear “corruption” problem. in the countryside.
In March, Members of the European Parliament adopted a resolution, supporting the Judgment of the European Court of Justice in February which dismissed the actions of Hungary and Poland against rule of law conditionality regulation.
The decision allows the 27-nation bloc to suspend support payments to member states if they breach rule of law principles.
Hungary and Poland launched their cases after the EU introduced its rule of law conditionality mechanism in 2020, a regulation that ties EU funds to respect for the rule of law in the bloc .
In an interview with the Austrian daily Tyroler Tageszeitung Over the weekend, EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn said the mechanism would be triggered due to suspicions of corruption and public procurement issues.
Critics say the mechanic is watered down
The rule of law mechanism was created by the EU as a tool to withhold funds from member states that violate the rule of law, for example by reducing judicial independence or eroding the separation of powers.
In case of violation, the Commission can submit a proposal to the European Council. A qualified majority – 55% of EU countries (15 out of 27) representing at least 65% of the bloc’s population – is then necessary for it to be adopted.
Some observers criticize that the mechanism is too narrow in scope as it only applies to offenses involving EU funds and has therefore been watered down from a rule of law to an anti-corruption mechanism.
“The fact that the EU has been unable to sanction serious breaches of the principles of the rule of law for 10 years in the case of Hungary and five years in the case of Poland does not change with the mechanism,” he said. said Hungarian constitutional scholar Gabor Halmai, who teaches at the European University Institute in Florence, DW said in a recent interview.
Hungary and Poland are also involved in Article 7 procedure launched by the EU in 2018. This can be triggered when a member state is deemed to be at risk of violating the bloc’s core values. Although the mechanism could ultimately remove a country’s voting rights, such a move would require unanimous consent, which is considered highly unlikely.
Last summer, the EU suspended payments from its pandemic recovery funds to the tune of 7.2 billion euros ($7.9 billion) to Hungary and Poland due to widely perceived democratic backsliding and corruption.