European figures tell Brussels to cut funding for Hungary

EU

Four senior European figures have called on European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to cut off funding to Hungary until “basic democratic freedoms are reinstated,” in a letter exclusively obtained by Euronews, the multilingual news media service headquartered in Lyon, France.

The correspondence - dated November 23, 2017 - was signed by Hans Eichel, Germany’s former finance minister and  co-founder of the G20, and three ex-EU commissioners: Pascal Lamy (also formerly director-general of the World Trade Organization), Franz Fischler and Ioannis Paleokrassas.

Addressed to Juncker, the letter claims there is little press freedom in Hungary, universities have lost their independence, and key public institutions have been “de facto taken over” by the ruling Fidesz party, according to the Euronews report.

“A temporary cessation is what this situation requires; all funding can and should be restored as soon as basic democratic freedoms are reinstated and corruption counteracted,” the letter reads. “We strongly believe that this is also a precondition for continuing EU funding to less developed regions – which is indispensable for the future of the European Union – in the period following 2020, in light of growing resentment all over Europe about the inefficient and improper use of EU funds.”

The letter asserts that it is the Commission’s duty to protect the EU’s financial interests.

“The Commission should live up to its duty concerning Hungary without any further delay,” it states.

The European Commission says Hungary received EUR 5.63 billion in funding from Brussels in 2015, while the letter claims 95% of public investment projects in the country are co-financed by the EU, according to the Euronews report.

Hungarian national news agency MTI also notes that the letter criticizes the Hungarian governmentʼs stated plan to allocate most of the EU money available for the 2014-2020 funding period in 2017 and 2018, with what it says is the purpose “to help Fidesz at the national elections in spring 2018, without any consideration of what will happen after 2018 when EU funding will be mostly exhausted.”

“Such jerking of the economy is also extremely detrimental for business in general,” MTI cites the letter as saying, warning that “the rapid disbursement leads to inefficient use of EU money, and greatly increases the risk of corruption.”

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