Former German finance minister, European commissioners ask EC to “suspend all EU funds to Hungary”

November 29, 2017

Former German finance minister, European commissioners ask EC to "suspend all EU funds to Hungary" 1
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker | Photo: Flickr/European Parliament

A letter was addressed to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last week in which Hans Eichel, co-founder and former chairman of G20 and former finance minister of Germany, and Pascal Lamy, former European commissioner and president emeritus of the Jacques Delors Institute, requested that the European Commission suspend all payments of EU funds to Hungary as a result of a number of policies which the letter’s authors consider contrary to European values.

Franz Fischler and Yannis Paleokrassas, both former European commissioners, are also signatories of the letter.

Its authors argue that the EU should temporarily suspend all EU funding to Hungary, except funding provided directly by the Commission (i.e. without the intermediary role of the Hungarian government), because they suspect the Fidesz government will misuse such funds for political purposes. The letter notes that the Hungarian government “plans to use 2017 and 2018 to allocate most of the EU money available for the funding period 2014-2020 […] The purpose here is clear: to help Fidesz at the national elections in spring 2018, without any consideration of what will happen after 2018 when EU funding will be mostly exhausted.”

They also argue that since its re-election in 2010, the Fidesz government has transformed “the whole institutional and legal system […] in a way that makes it much easier to assign a substantial part of EU money directly or indirectly to certain business and political groups, no matter how detrimental this is for the Hungarian society, and thus also for attaining the objectives of the European Union.”

According to the letter, key public institutions, such as the office of the prosecutor general and the Constitutional Court, have been de facto taken over by Fidesz, and the Constitution has been amended several times to serve the party’s interests. Press freedom has been eviscerated, the overwhelming majority of the media is now Fidesz-dominated, and access to information has been seriously curtailed by several new laws, the letter states.

The authors criticize the state of Hungary’s higher education system and the conditions for civil society organizations, specifically citing controversial laws passed this year, namely Lex CEU and the NGO law, respectively. They also fault Hungary for refusing to join the EU’s key anti-corruption initiative, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Quoting former Dutch ambassador to Hungary Gajus Scheltema, the authors write: “The argument over what happens with [European] money is indeed growing ever fiercer. We can’t finance corruption, and we can’t keep a corrupt regime alive. At the same time, we need to continue supporting underdeveloped areas – that’s solidarity. Economically Hungary still lags behind Western Europe, so we need to help. But in such a way that both the Hungarians and the Dutch are satisfied. We need to make the system much more transparent, accountable, and monitored.”

The letter closes by emphasizing that “a temporary cessation is what this situation requires; all funding can and should be restored as soon as basic democratic freedoms are reinstated and corruption counter-acted.”

A full English text of the letter can be read here.