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EU lawmakers to sue European Commission over funds for Hungary

Ursula von der Leyen previously unblocked over €10 billion to secure Budapest’s backing for Ukraine aid

The European Parliament will sue the European Commission (EC) over its decision late last year to unfreeze billions of euros in cohesion funds for Hungary.

In December, the EU released €10.2 billion (just over $11 billion) in frozen funds, having declared that Budapest had made progress on strengthening its “judicial independence.” 

The move came just before a European Council meeting scheduled to discuss a €50 billion package of military aid to Ukraine, which Budapest had been holding up, as well as the opening of EU membership talks with Kiev.

On Thursday, European Parliament party leaders agreed to file a case at the European Court of Justice, in a move the Financial Times said “could complicate” EC President Ursula von der Leyen’s bid for a second term as commission president this year.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola reportedly said she would file the legal suit against the EC before March 25.

“We want to make sure that taxpayers’ money has been treated in accordance with the treaties. This is not a political issue for the EPP [European People’s Party], this is not an election issue – we only want to have legal clarity,” said Petri Sarvamaa, EPP spokesman on the budget committee.

He noted, however, that the decision to provide the funds was taken by the entire college of commissioners, rather than just the president herself.

The EC has denied the allegations, with spokesman Christian Wigand stating that “the Commission considers that it acted in full compliance with EU law and will defend its decision before the EU courts.” 

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EU member gets more frozen funds released

Von der Leyen’s decision to unfreeze the funds to Budapest met with a backlash from MEPs at the time, who accused her of caving to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The Hungarian leader had openly declared that his country would drop its opposition to Ukraine funding only if Brussels unfroze the funds that Budapest was rightfully due. Orban had repeatedly argued that Brussels’ aid to Kiev had yielded no tangible results in the conflict with Russia.

At the end of 2022, the EU froze €22 billion ($23 billion) earmarked for Hungary, citing concerns over the independence of judges and Budapest’s alleged violations of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights on issues such as migration, LGBTQ rights, and academic freedom.

This month, the EU unlocked another batch of previously frozen funding for Hungary, citing Budapest’s alleged progress on gender equality. The decision came just days after Hungary voted to ratify Sweden’s application to NATO.

The EU is still sitting on about €19 billion in funding originally earmarked for Hungary, half of which comprises Covid-19 recovery grants and the rest “cohesion funds” doled out to members of the bloc.


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