The European Union is punishing Hungary for reelecting Viktor Orban. The European Commission, the top governing body of the EU on Tuesday launched a never-used procedure against the country that could see the Orban government stripped of EU funding.
According to France 24, the move to crack down on Orban’s moderate conservative government, which won the recent election with an overwhelming majority, comes as the EU sees it as an unfavourable result due to its liberal values.
Orban, who has been criticized as being soft on Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom some might even describe as an “ally,” has frequently been accused by European Union leadership in Brussels of backsliding on liberal and democratic norms.
The European Commission “will now send the letter of formal notification to start the conditionality mechanism,” according to EC Chief Ursula von der Leyen, to the applause at a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
The European Union has taken issue with Hungary over its public procurement system and has accused it of conflict of interests and corruption by Hungarian politicians.
The Hungarian government in Budapest stands to lose financial backing from the EU if the procedure is endorsed by a supermajority of the EU’s 27 member states.
In response to the move, Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas called on the European Commission to “not to punish Hungarian voters for expressing an opinion not to Brussels' taste” over the outcome of the elections.
“Brussels is making a mistake,” he continued, “the basic rules of democracy must be accepted by the Commission.”
Gulyas called on the EU to “return to common sense and dialogue.”
As detailed by France 24, the conditionality mechanism was first introduced in 2020, following a summit at the height of the coronavirus outbreak. The mechanism was developed to build an €800 billion ($900 billion) set of grants for EU member states to recover from the economic ramifications of the pandemic.
The conditionality mechanism was put in place by the Netherlands and Nordic countries as a set of guardrails to prevent taxpayer money from going to waste.
Both Hungary and Poland, which are ruled by conservative governments, challenged the procedure in the European Court of Justice, arguing that the mechanism was put in place to penalize them for their political stance.
Despite their efforts to shut down the procedure, the court approved its use in February, arguing that the EU “must be able to defend those values.”
“This is long overdue,” said French MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield. “The failure of the Hungarian government to manage public money transparently is well known and documented.”
She added: “How can a member state use EU funds properly when the independence of the judiciary has been destroyed and there are no sufficient safeguards against corruption?”
Should Hungary be shut out of the plan, it could effectively lose around €7.2 billion in European subsidies, which would have gone toward its economic recovery.