World news

even deprived of European money, the country would not (yet) hit rock bottom

► What is the balance of power in the European Council to freeze funds intended for Hungary?

The ball is in the court of the Twenty-Seven, while the Commission recommended on Wednesday November 30 to freeze 7.5 billion euros of cohesion funds intended for Hungary and 5.8 billion euros of the recovery plan both that the anti-corruption reforms – considered insufficient – ​​will not have been properly carried out. It is up to them to express themselves, by December 19, to decide by qualified majority (15 votes out of 27, bringing together at least 65% of the European population).

European finance ministers will deliver an opinion no earlier than Tuesday, December 6 on the Magyar file, then the final decision should go to the Heads of State and Government, by December 19. Even betting on a vote “against” from the Polish ally – who also did not receive the money from the recovery plan – on the reinforcement of the far-right leader Giorgia Meloni in Italy and on the abstention from Sweden, which governs with the support of the nationalists, the Hungarian Prime Minister knows that the account will probably not be there to release the money.

► What levers does Viktor Orban still have in his showdown?

The Hungarian Prime Minister retaliates by obstructing European and international decisions that require unanimity. On November 24, he postponed the ratification of Sweden’s and Finland’s accession to NATO until the next parliamentary session in 2023. At EU level, the nationalist leader is blocking tax minimum of 15% on the profits of multinationals.

Above all, he vetoed the sanctions against Russia and the aid plan for Ukraine, a loan of up to 18 billion euros for 2023. This position poses a particular problem for the ultra-conservative government in Poland, on the front line in support for kyiv. The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, has already warned that aid to Ukraine would be provided at 26 outside the European procedure, in the absence of Hungarian support.

The other way out is to finally comply with European standards against corruption which has allowed Orban’s allies to make a fortune. A train of 17 ” corrective actions ” hastily launched by Budapest did not convince the Commission. This considers that Hungary “has not made sufficient progress in its reforms”.

Among these measures are the establishment of an independent “integrity authority” to better monitor the use of EU funds and the creation of a procedure for citizens to lodge complaints, if they believe that the public prosecutor’s office arbitrarily terminated a corruption investigation.

► How badly does Hungary need European funds?

The need for these funds is heavily felt in this country where the economy is rocking due to inflation at more than 20%, food prices up by 40% and the public deficit which has reached 6% of GDP. The forint is one of the European currencies that depreciates the most against the dollar.

Nevertheless, the 13.3 billion euros frozen represent only part of the European funds earmarked for Hungary. Budapest can still bet on two thirds of the community windfall reserved for it. What to play the clock for Viktor Orban, while waiting to see how the wind turns for the war in Ukraine, the result of the Polish elections of 2023, and that of the American elections of 2024.


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