The last round of Orbán’s gambling has come to an end, as at midnight the one-month deadline to reply to the latest letter from Brussels on the rule of law conditionality expires. This is the last question and answer session, no more excuses or compromises. If the Fidesz government is still unable to convince the European Commission that it is able to provide adequate guarantees for the rule of law, then surely concrete financial sanctions will now follow.
This could result in a real and substantial loss of resources, which is the sole and clear responsibility of the Fidesz government. If Hungary receives even a single euro cent less than it should because of the criminal activities of the Orbán regime, the only people who will be held responsible will be the builders, operators and beneficiaries of the NER (Orbán’s so-called National Cooperation System). One way or another.
The European Commission began to put an end to this long-drawn-out process at the end of April, when it wrote to the Hungarian government to inform it of the launch of a mechanism to protect the EU budget from abuses of the rule of law. Following the first exchange of letters, the EU not only made clear that there was a serious problem with the systemic weaknesses in the Hungarian public procurement system, the lack of a comprehensive anti-corruption framework or the limited independence (to put it mildly) of the investigative authorities, but also told the Fidesz government in black and white which EU funds would be the ones that the Hungarian cabinet could say goodbye to if it did not make substantial changes to its operations.
The Orbán cabinet has done little beyond the usual anti-EU propaganda: the government’s pledges, announced as a big step forward, are in fact hardly enough to make a meaningful compromise. The significant reduction in the proportion of single-player public tenders has long been a necessary step (I might add that with this they themselves have acknowledged that so far tenders have been almost exclusively tailored to the circle of friends and relatives), but the laughter in Brussels over the creation of an ‘anti-corruption task force’, which the Justice Ministry has thrown in, was so loud that it could be heard from the Moon.
The fact is that in the current economic and social situation, even a single euro cent lost will be seriously missed from the Hungarian state budget. So the Hungarian Government cannot lose a single cent because of its own stubborn thievery; if the country does have to suffer any loss of resources, it will be solely because of Fidesz arrogance and Fidesz theft of public money. Obviously, if any sanctions are imposed on our country because of the government, the propaganda machine will be in full force to point the finger of blame at the European Union, the left, and perhaps the sex-changing kindergarteners.
We’re warning you: a blatant lie tsunami is coming. The only way for Fidesz to act fairly and credibly is to publish the letters sent by the European Commission, the precise expectations and criteria they contain, and the government’s responses to them. At the moment, the people of Hungary can only find out about anything from the brief statements of the negotiating parties, even though it is their very lives that are at stake. In fact, it is no longer a game at all, a match where the Hungarian Prime Minister always gets the good hand anyway. I therefore once again call on the government to make its correspondence with the European Commission available without delay, starting, for example, with the letter of reply that has been sent to Brussels by midnight on Monday.
Let it be known what the Hungarian Government has and has not committed itself to, what it has and has not compromised on in terms of European expectations regarding the rule of law and the protection of EU funds. If they are confident in their truth and have nothing to hide, they will do just this and promptly. If this shall not happen, not a word they say about the suspension or loss of EU funding should be believed. In her 20th August address, Hungarian President Katalin Novák said that „the precondition for our cooperation with the European Union is that we are not blackmailed either with the money we are owed or with the ideologies that Hungarians reject.” As for me, I think that a precondition for our cooperation with the EU is that the Fidesz government does not steal. It is as simple as that.
MEP István Ujhelyi
21 August, 2022