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Submitted by JP on Wed, 12/13/2023 - 20:05
Brussels releases €10 billion in frozen EU funds for Hungary

European Union unlocked €10.2 billion ($11 billion) of funding for Hungary on Wednesday, December 13. The move on the eve of a key European summit could also have implications for Ukraine.

The headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels. On Wednesday, the European Commission announced that Hungary is now eligible to seek reimbursements for projects totaling €10.2 billion ($11 billion). This decision comes as the Commission determined that Hungary has met the specified conditions regarding the independence of its judiciary. Photo by Cornelius Poppe/PAP/NTB

The European Commission suspended the disbursement of billions of euros owed to Hungary precisely on December 22, 2022. Officials in Brussels then determined that Hungary did not meet the conditions specified in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. "After a thorough assessment and several rounds of correspondence with the Hungarian government, the European Commission states that Hungary has taken measures, to which it committed, to allow the Commission to consider that the horizontal basic condition specified in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union has been met with regard to the independence of the judiciary. This means that part of the funding under the cohesion policy will no longer be blocked, and therefore Hungary can start applying for reimbursement of costs of approximately 10.2 billion euros," the European Commission announced on Wednesday.

Green light for the disbursement of funds

"We have received sufficient guarantees to be able to state that the independence of the judiciary in Hungary will be strengthened," said European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders. "Today's decision, however, does not mean the end of the process. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and will react at an early stage in case of any deviations," Commissioner Didier Reynders added.

The French newspaper "Le Monde" pointed out that although the unblocking of funds for Hungary was expected, the decision of the European Commission sparked outrage among some Members of the European Parliament, who accused officials of succumbing to Hungarian "blackmail." Why such suspicions? The green light for the disbursement of funds to the authorities in Budapest came in a very tense geopolitical environment. Beginning Thursday, EU leaders will convene in Brussels to deliberate on reconfirming their backing for Ukraine. The agenda includes a macroeconomic package amounting to 50 billion euros ($54 billion) and a commitment to engage in formal membership discussions. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán strongly opposes the start of EU accession negotiations with Ukraine and also advocates for blocking a special aid fund of 50 billion euros to strengthen Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. 

27 super milestones

The European Commission ordered Hungary to meet 27 "super milestones" and four "horizontal basic conditions" under the principles of equality (in some cases, these conditions overlap) for the authorities in Budapest to regain access to cohesion and recovery funds worth over 30 billion euros frozen since December 2022.

Hungarian authorities are still waiting for the payment of 11.5 billion euros in cohesion funds, including 6.3 billion euros frozen under the so-called conditionality mechanism due to concerns about the transparency of public procurement, conflicts of interest, and corruption. The disbursement of the remaining funds is intended for thematic areas such as the right to academic freedom, the protection of LGBTQ+ minorities, and the right to asylum.