On Thursday, a sizable majority of EU legislators voted to denounce the harm that veteran Prime Minister Viktor Orban has done to Hungary’s democracy, increasing pressure on the EU to stop funding the former communist nation.
The European Commission is anticipated to propose this week that money allocated for Budapest from the bloc’s 1.1 trillion euro ($1.1 trillion) common budget be suspended due to corruption risks.
That would be the first action taken by the EU under its new financial sanctions, known as ‘cash for democracy,’ which were agreed upon two years ago in direct response to Orban’s and his supporters’ reversal of liberal democratic principles within the bloc.
The European Parliament adopted a report proclaiming that there is ‘a clear risk of a severe breach by Hungary of the values on which the (European) Union is established’ on Thursday with 433 votes in favour and 123 votes against.
In a statement, the chamber claimed that rather than being a democracy, Hungary has instead turned into a ‘electoral autocracy.’
In reaction, Orban’s government’s Fidesz party claimed that the EU parliament was more concerned with criticising Hungary than it was with resolving an economic crisis brought on by rising energy bills that had been made worse by Russia’s conflict in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Moscow.
In a statement, Fidesz said, ‘It is astonishing that even in this crisis the leftist majority of the European Parliament continues busy only with targeting Hungary.’
‘The left in Brussels wants to repeatedly punish Hungary and withhold the monies owed to our nation.’
Intense disputes between Orban and the EU—which Hungary joined in 2004—concern migrant, LGBT, and women’s rights, as well as the impartiality of the judiciary, media, and academic institutions—have raged for years.
However, the self-described illiberal crusader disputes that Hungary is more corrupt than other members of the 27-nation bloc.
Due to weak anti-corruption measures in Hungary’s public procurement, the European Commission has previously withheld almost 6 billion euros that were due for Budapest from the bloc’s separate COVID economic stimulus plan.
If other EU members accept the anticipated Commission recommendation, money worth up to ten percent of Hungary’s GDP could be at risk. This possibility has caused the Hungarian forint, central Europe’s worst-performing currency, to decline.
Budapest has recently come under pressure to reach an agreement with Brussels and release cash for Hungary’s faltering economy, and Prime Minister Orban’s administration has pledged to establish a new anti-graft agency.
The Commission has given member nations three months to deliberate on its decision, and if they find Budapest’s measures in the interim convincing, they may choose to scale back the punishment.