EU finance ministers postpone decision on Hungary

Dhe meeting of EU finance ministers ended on Tuesday in Brussels, as the pessimists feared. The heads of department did not get a single one of the four items on the agenda, which had actually been put together in a decision-making package under pressure from the Hungarian government, off the table. The culprit was quickly the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban turned off.

He had two draft decisions blocked that have nothing to do with his country, but could only be decided unanimously: budget support for the Ukraine of 18 billion euros in 2023 as well as an EU law that casts the long-decided international global minimum taxation for companies into European law.

On the other hand, the Czech EU Presidency took the planned vote on the proposal of the EU Commission from the agenda to freeze various EU funds planned for Hungary until 2027. In a rule of law procedure, the EU authority had proposed not to pay Hungary 7.5 billion euros from the EU cohesion fund because of insufficient anti-corruption measures.

Nor has a decision been taken on the Commission’s recommendation to accept Hungary’s plan to use €5.8 billion from the Corona Recovery Fund once the country has put a comprehensive set of reforms in place. By blocking the other two decisions, the Hungarian government wants to prevent the EU the funds are finally cancelled.

The EU Commission should now review Hungary’s anti-corruption measures before making a decision. Federal Minister of Finance Christian Lindner (FDP) said there were “developments” in Hungarian politics after the first commission report of November 19. The new assessment should be ready in a few days.

“Ukraine must not lose this war”

The minister indicated that a political decision on the Hungarian dossiers would ultimately not be made by the finance ministers, but by the heads of state and government. “There is also talk at another level,” said the minister, alluding to talks between individual heads of state and government on the sidelines of the EU-Western Balkans summit in Tirana.

The heads of department expressed particular annoyance that Hungary was blocking budget aid for Ukraine. “It is a war in which European interests are also being defended. Ukraine must not lose this war and it therefore needs our financial support,” said Lindner. “Our goal remains to start disbursing aid to Ukraine at the beginning of January,” said the acting Council President, Czech Finance Minister Zbynek Stanjura. A solution is sought in which only 26 member countries would be involved. EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn said he would “do the best possible” to provide the money.

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