EU may punish Hungary – media

The European Commission reportedly intends to slash funding over alleged graft

FILE PHOTO. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban © Getty Images / Michael Gruber

The European Commission will recommend withholding funds from the Hungarian government over allegations of corruption in the country, Bloomberg claimed on Wednesday, confirming earlier reports in the Hungarian press. The assessment is expected to be unveiled as soon as Sunday.

The EU launched a probe against Hungary shortly after its prime minister, Viktor Orban, shored up his domestic position by winning the April general election in a landslide. The investigation was triggered under a recently adopted EU law that links payments of subsidies to member states to their compliance with the bloc’s rule-of-law norms.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, the European Commission is almost ready to release its conclusions. The executive body is to recommend slashing the funding pending improvement in adherence to the norms, senior EU officials told the agency.

The final decision will be made within three months after the report is released, with a qualified majority of votes by the bloc’s members required to adopt it.

Brussels may give Budapest a grace period of up to three months to  implement a number of measures that the Hungarian government promised to enact to alleviate the EU’s concerns, according to Bloomberg.

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According to EUobserver, as much as 70% of the funding due between 2021 and 2027 may be withheld from Hungary owing to non-    compliance. The total sum would amount to over €40 billion, according to the Bloomberg report. The Orban government was blocked from accessing the EU money during the probe.

The anti-corruption measures that Budapest proposed in late August include creating a new authority to oversee the spending of EU funds and amending Hungarian laws on public procurements. The country’s justice minister, Judit Varga, met EU officials last week to discuss the package.

The timeline for the release of the graft report was first revealed by the Hungarian newspaper Nepszava on Tuesday evening. Its sources said that 20% of EU subsidies were at risk of being suspended unless Budapest meets Brussels’ demands.

The punishment, if implemented, would be the first case of its kind. The EU leadership has voiced concerns about the rule of law in several Eastern European countries, most notably Hungary and Poland.

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