The Hungarian government has only one month left to officially submit its detailed request for the loan part of the EU funds, referred to by the Hungarian press as the „Recovery Fund” (RRF). So far, the Fidesz government has been rather incoherent about this envelope.
To be clear: out of the common EU loan envelope of some €723.8 billion, Hungary is entitled to 2,300 billion forints in non-repayable funds (subject to the fulfilment of the rule of law conditions that have been known for months) and 3,300 billion forints in highly concessional EU loans (which the Fidesz government can use at a fraction of the interest rates on loans taken from the market). However, the latter also needs to be requested from Brussels based on a precise plan. Yet the Fidesz government continues to withhold its ideas on this, even though they are legally obliged to consult on the substance of how the money will be used before submitting their plan. If they fail to do so, we could „lose this dough” (too).
Two years ago, Viktor Orbán, as usual, with his hands in his pockets and with a certain amount of arrogance, nformed Ursula von der Leyen that the Hungarian government did not intend to use the RRF loan, only the non-reimbursable part. A year later, in a sort of illiberal turn of events, the Prime Minister of Fidesz did write a letter to the President of the European Commission, indicating that perhaps we could use the loan after all.
In January of this year, the government resolution was published, according to which Minister for Regional Development Tibor Navracsics was to negotiate the credit line, and Minister for Energy Csaba Lantos was to draw up the technical plans for the use of the RRF and the newly integrated so-called RePowerEU funds. But exactly how much money we are asking for from the EUR 3 300 billion framework and exactly how we want to spend it is still unknown. There have been rumours that only two-thirds of the envelope will be drawn down but given the Fidesz government’s budget collapse and money crunch, it is safe to assume that they want to use as much of this concessional budget as possible. As usual, however, Orbán is running out of time again, either out of sheer stupidity or deliberate manipulation. Once again, they are trying to completely sabotage one of their most important tasks, namely the widest possible public consultation on the use of the loan.
Legislation requires a multi-level dialogue with local and regional authorities, social partners, NGOs, youth organisations and the widest possible range of society on the priorities for spending the loan. The loan application, which the government must submit to Brussels within one month at the latest, must be submitted „in agreement” with the above-mentioned organisations, otherwise no money will be forthcoming. This is not the first time that the European Commission has warned the Fidesz government that it is not fulfilling its obligation to consult in the least, which, incidentally, justifies the withholding of frozen EU funds.
The public consultation that the government is obliged and required to carry out is therefore still nowhere to be found on state platforms. There has been no related consultation activity on the dedicated online government sites since January, which again can only mean one of two things: either they are bumbling on again or once again they are deliberately breaking the rules.
Unfortunately, the result may very well be the same in both cases: we simply lose the money. As a Hungarian MEP, my basic expectation of the government is that it informs the public as soon as possible in a meaningful and detailed manner about the priorities and objectives it intends to pursue in using the resources available under the RRF, about how it intends to carry out a meaningful public consultation before the deadline, and what professional and civil society organisations it intends to involve in the preparation of the loan application. But most of all, as an elected representative of the Hungarian people, I expect the Hungarian Government to take responsibility for once for what it is doing with EU funds.
They are known to be handling the issue of Brussels subsidies at various levels of decision-making and have apparently not taken responsibility for anything for thirteen years. I expect the government to provide clear information, meaningful consultation and to use a significant part of the loan facility to make real improvements to public health care. That is the bare minimum.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament / Founder of the Community of Chance