EU lawmakers have condemned the bloc’s failure to confront Hungary over breaches of rule of law and values, saying that the country has become a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” and can no longer be defined as a democracy.
In the report adopted on Thursday (15 September the European Parliament underlined that the Hungarian government is undermining EU values and demanded results from the Article 7 process.
MEPs expressed concern about the “constitutional and electoral system, the independence on the judiciary, corruption and conflicts of interest and freedom of expression, including media pluralism. Academic freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of association, the right to equal treatment, including LGBTIQ rights, the rights of minorities, as well as those of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, are also problematic.”
The Parliament triggered Article 7 of the EU treaty, which is designed to address countries in systemic breach of the rule of law and EU values in 2018.
However, since then, MEPs said that democracy and fundamental rights in the country have deteriorated. They added that the actions taken by EU governments have been insufficient, stating that Hungary has become a country where there is no “respect for democratic norms.”
Further delays by EU governments in the Council of Ministers in acting under Article 7 rules to protect EU values in Hungary would amount to a breach of the principle of the rule of law by the Council itself, said MEPs.
“Hungary is not a democracy. It was more urgent than ever for the Parliament to take this stance, considering the alarming rate at which the rule of law is backsliding in Hungary. Beyond acknowledging Fidesz’s autocratic strategy, the large majority of MEPs supporting this position in the European Parliament is unprecedented. This should be a wake-up call for the Council and Commission,” said French Greens/EFA MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, the rapporteur of this initiative.
The Parliament also urged the EU executive to apply its budget conditionality regulation to Hungary, which would protect the EU budget from violations of rule of law and has yet to be used by the Commission since it first came into force in January 2021.
MEPs are also urging the Commission to block the disbursement of the €5.8 billion assigned for the bloc’s recovery fund for Hungary. The EU executive has proposed that 70% of this funding be suspended while Hungary promises to introduce measures to address corruption and conflicts of interest in its public procurement system. The Commission is expected to announce on Sunday that it will suspend a portion of Hungary’s recovery funds, following a series of meetings between Hungarian ministers and Commission officials on the matter in recent weeks.
They also called on the Commission to “exclude from funding those cohesion programmes contributing to the misuse of EU funds or to breaches of the rule of law,” as well as applying the Common Provisions Regulation and Financial Regulation more ‘stringently’ to help better monitor and tackle and misuse of EU funds by Hungary.