EU activates rule of law mechanism against Hungary

EU member states are launching the rule of law mechanism for the first time and freezing funds for Hungary amounting to 6.3 billion euros. Budapest will receive money from the EU's Covid recovery fund, but this will be subject to stringent conditions. In return, hungary dropped its blockade against aid for Ukraine from the EU budget and minimum taxation of large corporations. Europe's press takes stock of this unusual compromise.

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Népszava (HU) /

Brussels vs. Budapest entering critical phase

Népszava criticises that the Hungarian government is touting the compromise as a victory:

“Contrary to what the propaganda campaign here in Hungary claims, the compromise makes it clear that the government has lost its potential when it comes to representing its interests on the international stage: it can no longer even count on the solidarity of the states in the region. ... The tug of war between Brussels and Budapest is far from over. The critical phase is just beginning. For in exchange for the subsidies, tough conditions must be met.”

Válasz Online (HU) /

Just one less self-inflicted problem

Válasz Online also sees no reason for Orbán to celebrate:

“The systematic blocking of joint EU decisions has meant that there was no member state in the Council that was willing to defend the Hungarian government. Neither our Visegrádcomrades-in-arms nor our ideological friends from Italy have proposed dropping the suspension of EU funds completely. ... With this painstakingly negotiated and, from Hungary's point of view, not particularly advantageous compromise (waiving vetoes in exchange for tightly controlled access to funds) the Hungarian government is solving a problem it itself created.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Damaging unanimity prinicple

After the blockade is before the blockade, Handelsblatt fears:

“The next blackmail attempt from Hungary is bound to come. It is therefore high time to restrict the unanimity principle in the Council to become less susceptible to blackmail. In many policy areas, a qualified majority should suffice to reach an EU decision. The German government, for example, advocates greater reliance on the majority principle in financial matters. It is unacceptable that a single head of government can prevent pressing and vital decisions such as Ukraine aid on a whim, as has happened in recent weeks.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Basic consensus growing in the EU

The Hungarian prime minister has overplayed the opposition game, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“In the new geopolitical situation his allies have run away. Poland, which had always jumped to Orbán's side when he was to be punished for weakening the separation of powers, has abandoned the Hungarian. Isolated and fearing for his future Covid funds, Orbán refrained from vetoing the Ukraine aid. ... The united front against Orbán (not against Hungary!) is another indication that the EU - despite setbacks - is getting stronger, not weaker, in its confrontation with Russia. There are the beginnings of a basic supranational consensus on what is acceptable and what is not.”

Wprost (PL) /

A lesson for Poland

Wprost warns:

“The compromise agreed regarding the payment of EU funds to Hungary is an important lesson for the Polish government. It shows that playing with the veto, supposedly a miraculous weapon in the fight against the Brussels bureaucracy's conspiracy against Polish sovereignty, is an ineffective and very double-edged sword. It has been of little use to Viktor Orbán, despite his government's attempts in recent months to blackmail Brussels on practically every issue requiring a unanimous decision by the member states.”

NV (UA) /

When push comes to shove Hungary will never say no

Orbán's manoeuvring here, as with the sanctions, is just a ruse, comments investment banker Sergey Fursa with annoyance in NV:

“Hungary's economy is more dependent on the EU than on Putin's money. Even if Orbán buys cheap popularity through populism, without EU funding everything would collapse. And Orbán knows that. So there will be a 9th sanctions package - perhaps a little later on, when Orbán's haggling comes to an end again. And yes, it would certainly be better for the whole household if such a flatmate were evicted, but there is no such provision in the co-op documents. ... He can only decide to move out himself. But he won't. Because of the money.”