Should the EU freeze funding for Hungary?
The EU Commission has concluded that Hungary is not doing enough to fight corruption and therefore wants to freeze up to 7.5 billion euros in funding earmarked for Budapest. A recommendation to this effect could be put forward on Wednesday. The EU finance ministers would then have one week to reach a decision on the issue. For most commentators the step is long overdue.
Brussels must not let itself be fobbed off with empty promises again, Politiken demands:
“The Hungarian leader has tried to maintain his access to EU aid programmes by pretending that his government actually has a serious reform programme under way. ... There must be no shortcuts, either for Hungary or for any other country. The Commission and the Council of Ministers should insist that democracy, the rule of law and an independent judiciary are an indispensable common foundation for the EU. And the community must not be content with promises of reform but must demand that they be translated into law, also in Hungary. So stand firm, EU.”
Orbán has boxed himself in
There may be no way out of the anti-EU policy, Népszava fears:
“Hungary's government has no more ways to get out of this mess: its policies are partly built on hostility to Brussels. And now the government's survival depends on those whose brains have been successfully washed and who support this fatal anti-EU stance that will push us into the abyss. And it is to be feared that retaining its own grip on power is more important to the government than the interests of a massively impoverished population.”
Stop financing authoritarianism
The EU Commission has finally summoned the courage to put Orbán in his place, the Tages-Anzeiger rejoices:
“For years, Hungary's head of government has been treating the Union like an annoying bank employee who is supposed to hand him the money and not tell him how to spend it. But of course it's the EU's business if its subsidies, which are paid by the taxpayers of other countries, end up in the accounts of Orbán's relatives and friends through fraud. And it's even more the EU's business when Orbán attacks and dismantles everything in his country that constitutes a modern European democracy: the rule of law, the independent judiciary, the free media, and his political rivals.”
EU's unity at risk
In view of the fact that Sweden joined Hungary in abstaining from the vote on the EU budget, Aftonbladet fears that EU-sceptical parties like the Sweden Democrats which are partners in national governments could cause the front against countries like Hungary to crumble:
“Sweden will hold the EU Council presidency in the first half of 2023 and yet we weren't even able to rubber stamp the most important decision of the year. Instead we sat with folded arms next to a country that resorts to blackmail to dismantle its own democracy. So far the yellow light [abstention] on the vote has not caused a big stir here in Sweden. But in Brussels it is a flashing warning light.”
Remain functional despite hostile member
The weekly Respekt no longer believes a compromise between Brussels and Budapest is possible:
“Viktor Orbán has lost much of his power and influence in Europe in recent years. The support he had from the Germans has disappeared, relations with the other Visegrád countries have cooled. ... The EU Commission seems determined to seek confrontation and no longer allow itself to be blackmailed. An open war could break out between the EU and the Hungarian prime minister. That would create a new situation. The EU would have to look for improvised (and slower and more expensive) legal solutions to circumvent the Hungarian veto in the future. And in the long term, look for a way to remain functional and operational even with a hostile member.”