A majority of MEPs, dominated by Liberals and the assembly’s Left, are enraged about the European Commission’s decision to release up to €10.2 billion for Viktor Orbán’s Hungarian Government.
The European Parliament is prepared to go to the European Court of Justice to get its way; the unheard of move is akin to a country’s parliament suing its government. A spokesperson for the European Court called the move “quite exceptional”.
With 345 votes for, 104 against and 29 abstentions, MEPs expressed “strong concern” for what they call “the further erosion of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights” in Hungary.
They also take offence to Hungary blocking the €50 billion aid package for Ukraine.
Huge majority in European Parliament votes in favor of our Hungary resolution.
European Parliament will now take the necessary steps to prepare a court case against the Commission over the payment of 10bn Euros to Hungary.
— Daniel Freund (@daniel_freund) January 18, 2024
The MEPs demand that the Commission not give EU money to Hungary; they also want to take away the country’s voting rights.
The adopted resolution requests that the legal department of the Parliament draft a lawsuit against the European Commission:
“Parliament will look into whether legal action should be pursued to overturn the decision to partially unfreeze funds, and notes that it can use an array of legal and political measures if the Commission is in breach of its duties as the guardian of the Treaties and to protect the EU’s financial interests.”
Parliament is requesting that the European Council ascertain if Hungary has engaged in “serious and persistent breaches of EU values.”
The assembly further warns that, if the post of President of the European Council becomes vacant, as could be the case due to the early exit of incumbent Charles Michel, the responsibilities would be assumed by the Prime Minister of Hungary for the duration of that nation’s six-month Presidency of the Council.
“MEPs ask the Council to find proper solutions to mitigate these risks, and call for reforms to the Council’s decision-making process, to end the abuse of the right of veto and blackmail.”
The EU, minus Hungary, intends to agree upon aid for Ukraine during a second European meeting on February 1. Thursday’s vote is seen as a way to increase pressure on the Orbán government.
The “blackmail” to which MEPs refer is the green light for the €10 billion Hungary is due to receive, given in December, after Orbán agreed to open accession negotiations with Ukraine.
However, the decision to unfreeze the money was taken earlier, after Commission officials determined that Hungary is on track with its judicial reforms.
The EU suspended payments to Hungary in 2020. Since then, both sides have been negotiating reform, which the Commission said had been “positive”.
A Commission spokesperson told Brussels Signal that they have “taken note of today’s [Thursday’s] vote in the European Parliament, and referred to what EC President Ursula von der Leyen said:
“When we took office, we promised to safeguard the rule of law in our Union, while being fair to all Member States. I have made this a priority for my Commission. That is why this Commission has created the annual Rule of Law Reports. And we have used all the instruments available to us to protect both the values and the EU’s financial interests.
“Our goal has always been to push for reforms in the Member States that they can improve the life of every European.”
The Hungarian Prime Minister was not impressed by the EP’s move. Orbán took to X to say that “Liberal MEPs attacked Hungary once again”.
Noting that the MEPs want to give a huge amount of money to Ukraine just before the elections, he added “[t]hey essentially want to strip people of their rights to make decisions on their future. What an anti-democratic position!”
Liberal MEP’s attacked Hungary once again in the @Europarl_EN yesterday. They want to give money to #Ukraine for 4 years, while the European elections are just 5 months away. They essentially want to strip people of their rights to make decisions on their future. What an…
— Orbán Viktor (@PM_ViktorOrban) January 18, 2024