The European Union, without getting over the fact that Prime Minister Viktor Orban has a different opinion towards Russia compared to Brussels, is blackmailing Hungary by threatening to freeze €7.5 billion in funds. The European Commission accuses Orban of autocracy, abusing the Hungarian constitution, taking control of the media and violating the rights of minorities, and even suspects possible corruption in the management of money.
Hungary now has until November 19 to resolve these irregularities or be left without €7.5 billion in EU funds.
It is recalled that Orban himself spoke unequivocally about pressure and blackmail from Brussels when he met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on September 16. “I find it funny,” Orban said in Belgrade after receiving the highest Serbian decoration from Vucic.
“The only reason we don’t laugh at it is because we’re bored of it. It’s a boring joke. It’s the third or fourth time they’ve passed a resolution condemning Hungary in the European Parliament. At first, we thought it was significant. But now we see it as a joke,” he said.
However, as it turned out, it was certainly no joke and the blackmailing of €7.5 billion had the desired effect on the Hungarian prime minister. According to Orban, the left and liberal circles, which are in the majority both in the European Commission and in the European Parliament, cannot get over the fact that Budapest has a different position regarding relations with Russia, but also with other issues, such as illegal migration and LGBT rights.
This is classic political blackmail by Brussels because Hungarians, through the democratic process, support Orban’s party, which won a two-thirds majority in the Hungarian parliament for the fourth time in a row. At the same time, the Hungarian opposition recognised the election result every time and without delay. Therefore, the EU cannot talk about autocracy when the entire Hungarian opposition recognises election results.
This is just the beginning of Orban being targeted and it more than likely that pressures will intensify in the coming months. Attempts to get Hungary to join the common position of the EU on punishing Russia are increasing day by day. Hungary was previously accused by Brussels of financial malfeasance and corruption, not only in the implementation of public procurement, but also in the matter of media pluralism.
All this should be interpreted in the context of Brussels sanctioning the sovereign position of Budapest, despite the country supposedly being an equal member state of the EU. Brussels cannot get over the fact that Hungary is the only country that is declaratively against anti-Russia sanctions as it does more harm to European citizens and economy than it does to Russia itself.
As for sanctioning Orban himself, as someone who constantly and loudly repeats that European sanctions against Russia is negatively impacting Europe and its citizens, and many believe he may be doing it for opportunistic reasons, it also calls into question the entire liberal order in the EU as a diversity of opinion and thought is clearly not tolerated.
Orban has now found himself in a position that if he does not reconsider his position on Russia, with all the other issues about migration and the constitution being a sideshow, the EU will freeze monies from the structural funds, which are primarily intended for development projects, such as infrastructure, healthcare, and education.
In effect though, this could boost Orban’s domestic popularity as there is a clear and evident attack by Brussels on Hungary’s sovereignty and independence. The EU forgets that Hungary’s citizens are also EU citizens, and if EU scepticism was already rife in the country, it will certainly now escalate.
Orban is not isolated though, as Poland said it would fully oppose any measure depriving Hungary of the funds. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Sunday that such a move would be "absolutely unauthorised."
Italy's far-right leader Giorgia Meloni – tipped for victory in the upcoming general election – has also criticised the EU's threat, warning that sanctions could push countries towards Russia.
The Hungarian government though appear to be playing ball with Brussels though, with Justice Minister Judit Varga saying that "we still have work to do" to end the row, while insisting: "We are moving in the right direction.
"We are working to ensure that the Hungarian people receive the resources they are entitled to!" Varga commented on social media.
French European Parliament member Valerie Hayer tweeted that this was the "last chance" for Orban.
"The time for discussions is over," she said.
Dernière chance pour Viktor #Orbán.
Deux issues désormais :
1. Soit il met fin à la corruption et au dépérissement des institutions démocratiques de la Hongrie.
2. Soit nous lui retirons 7,5 milliards aujourd'hui, et plus encore demain.
Le temps des discussions est terminé. https://t.co/jNYohf0blw
— Valérie Hayer (@ValerieHayer) September 18, 2022
The Hungarian minister in charge of negotiations with the EU, Tibor Navracsics told reporters that he was confident that "we can conclude these negotiations before the end of the year and sign the related agreements" to enable the release of the funds.