Prime Minister Viktor Orbán rendered an account to Parliament about fulfilment of mandate given for EU summit
10. 08. 2020.
In a detailed letter addressed to Speaker of the House László Kövér, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán rendered an account of the fulfilment of the five-point parliamentary mandate he received for the July summit of the European Council. According to this, he accomplished the first two objectives: there is no obstacle to the conclusion of the procedure instituted against Hungary under Article Seven; and he succeeded in taking important steps towards excluding the attachment of political conditions to the disbursement of funds. However, Hungary has not yet accomplished the goal of putting an end to grants provided for parties and political agencies functioning in the guise of non-governmental organisations, Bertalan Havasi, the Prime Minister’s press chief informed the Hungarian news agency MTI on Monday.

He added the Prime Minister recommends that during the ratification of the EU agreement, Parliament should debate whether the results achieved have been satisfactory in order for the agreement to be supported by Hungary’s legislature.

Mr Havasi recalled that in a decision adopted on 14 July 2020, the Hungarian Parliament gave the Hungarian government a clear mandate in the European Council regarding the EU rescue package and the talks about the multiannual EU budget. Parliament laid down five objectives to be achieved. According to the first one, Member States in comparable positions must be afforded comparable treatment. The second expectation was that citizens of richer Member States should not be given more money than citizens of poorer countries. Pursuant to the third point, the so-called procedures under Article Seven must be brought to a conclusion before the adoption of the EU rescue package and the budget. Fourthly, political parties and agencies functioning in the guise of non-governmental organisations should be denied EU funds. According to the fifth condition, tying EU grants to political and ideological conditions under the disguise of the “rule of law” is unacceptable.

As a result of the talks, Mr Orbán informed Parliament of the following.

“Hungary was able to successfully meet the expectation laid down by Parliament that Member States in comparable positions should be afforded comparable treatment. We achieved a meaningful and significant amendment to the original proposal that was unfavourable for Hungary. Hungary could draw on some EUR 40.7 billion non-repayable EU grants in total from the EU rescue package and the budget, and could further take out a loan of EUR 10 billion. The contributions payable by the country will be in the magnitude of EUR 11 billion. The balance of contributions and available funds will amount to some EUR 30 billion over the next seven years, meaning that Hungary will be able to raise extra funds worth the equivalent of 2.8 per cent of its national income annually on average. This is the sixth highest amount, and with the exception of Lithuania, we are only preceded by countries whose national incomes are below ours. Based on the agreement concluded with respect to the EU budget, over a period of seven years we will have access to funds amounting to 1.8 per cent of our gross domestic product from the Cohesion Policy; this is the third best result after Bulgaria and Croatia. Based on objective figures, I am able to inform Parliament that I have accomplished the first and second objectives laid down in the parliamentary resolution,” Mr Orbán wrote to Speaker of the House László Kövér.

In continuation, he reported that, pursuant to the mandate laid down in the parliamentary resolution, he initiated the conclusion of the procedure under Article Seven during the German EU presidency.

“During the procedure now under way against Hungary for two years – which was instituted by the European Parliament on the basis of political considerations and which is disputable from a legal point of view – Hungary has answered all questions, has dispersed all doubts and has refuted all accusations concerning the functioning of Hungarian democracy and institutions of the rule of law. Therefore, in our view, there is no obstacle to bringing the procedure to a conclusion,” the Prime Minister stated, adding that the representative of the German government confirmed that during the remaining part of Germany’s presidency they would make efforts to bring the procedure to a conclusion.

In the context of point four, Mr Orbán wrote he suggested, but “failed to achieve” the goal identified by Parliament that the practice that political parties and agencies engaged in political activities in the guise of non-governmental organisations should be terminated. “I pledge that the Government of Hungary will make every effort to keep this issue on the agenda,” he pointed out.

Regarding point five of the parliamentary resolution, the practice of tying the disbursement of funds to political and ideological conditions, the Prime Minister believes that they have taken important steps. “I made it clear that Hungary and in particular, leaders of the current governing parties are committed to the rule of law, and we were even at the time when during communism we had to fight for the rule of law against totalitarian dictatorship. However, levelling political accusations under the concept of the rule of law in the absence of clear legal categories violates the very fundamental principles of the rule of law,” Mr Orbán argued.

The text lays down that “we are all committed to the rule of law. It also reflects the principle that we all regard the protection of the financial interests of the European Union – meaning European and within that broader category, Hungarian taxpayers – as important. At the same time, the agreement does not contain ambiguous political statements, and therefore if observed, it does not convey the threat of the introduction of financial sanctions against any Member State, including our country for political or ideological reasons,” the Prime Minister laid down, taking the view that it is also an important guarantee that at a later meeting of the European Council – where a unanimous decision is required – they will have to come back to these issues in order to clarify the details. Mr Orbán wrote in summary that in cooperation with Poland, Hungary managed to achieve that EU procedures conducted in the name of the rule of law, but in gross violation of the rule of law should not jeopardise Hungary’s cohesion funds and financial interests.

At the end of his letter, the Prime Minister wrote that “the EU budget and rescue package in combination offer Hungary a major economic opportunity. At the same time, it is also a fact that the EU response to the coronavirus epidemic, meaning common borrowing is contrary to the Hungarian government’s sovereign debt reduction policy pursued in the past ten years, and is a step towards a debt community which is unprecedented in the history of the European Union. The entry into force of the agreement is subject to the ratification thereof by the parliaments of Member States. I recommend that during this process of ratification, Parliament debate whether the results achieved as part of the mandate given earlier are sufficient for the agreement to be supported by the Hungarian Parliament.”