Ujhelyi: 'Hungarian interests, EU rules victorious'
Navracsics: EC approval of recovery plan ‘significant progress’
The commission’s decision did not come as a surprise to the Hungarian government, Navracsics told a regular government press briefing on Wednesday, adding that the “body had informed the government of its position via the media over a week ago”.
He said today’s decision was in line with what the EC had communicated in September.
Navracsics said today was the first time that the commission had officially said that Hungary’s national Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) plan was “worthy of approval”.
The minister pointed out that the commission had praised the Hungarian recovery plan as being “one of the best” and had given it the highest marks with the exception of one category.
He said the plan’s approval had already been at arm’s length a year and a half ago, and consultations on it had been ongoing ever since.
Navracsics expressed hope that the EC’s decision concerning cohesion monies would open the door to the final round of consultations and a conclusion to the talks after which Hungary and the EU could sign the partnership agreement.
Once this is done, Hungary will have achieved the goal it had set in the summer of reaching agreements with the commission over a period of six months in the two areas they had yet to agree on, giving the country access to EU funds from 2023, he added.
Meanwhile, Navracsics said the commission’s decision to uphold its recommendation to freeze 65 percent of funding for three operative programmes was not a new development.
He said this was due to the fact that the government’s “schedule of passing legislation and setting up institutions” included certain deadlines “that we have yet to reach”.
Navracsics said he was hopeful that Hungary would fulfill the outstanding commitments as precisely as it had fulfilled all the others. He said he hoped Hungary would be able to convince the commission and the European Council next year that the suspension of the funds did not have to be upheld and that the country could gain access to 100 percent of the funds in every operative programme.
In response to a question, Navracsics said the Hungarian government had always upheld its principles whenever it compromised in the interest of reaching an agreement. He said that if Hungary continued carrying out its programme and meeting more deadlines, it would become clear to both member states and the EC that “we’re not trying to be sneaky”.
Throughout the talks, Hungary constantly handled issues that had nothing to do with each other separately, he said.
If Hungary and the EC manage to sign two more agreements before the end of the year, the negotiations could be deemed successful, Navracsics said. In response to another question, he said that he would not resign if the agreements fell through owing to others.
Navracsics said parliament would not have to hold any special sessions in this matter.
Gergely Gulyas, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said there was a good chance that Hungary and the EC could sign the partnership agreement needed for the operative programmes.
In response to a question, he said the left may have played a role in the conditionality procedure against Hungary, arguing that the commission had not fully acknowledged the decisions that will be approved by parliament next week.
He said the European Commission was under pressure from the European Parliament, adding that it was a “mistake” to have allowed such a mood to take hold in the EP. Gulyas said Hungarian MEPs “who are spreading untruths about the country” were also to blame for this.
He slammed Hungarian MEPs who had approved resolutions that he said blocked funds for Hungarian teachers, the health-care sector and businesses.
But these MEPs had failed to reach their goal, Gulyas said, arguing that a suspension of funds was not equal to a loss of funds.
Hungary next year will gain access to 2,500 billion forints (EUR 6.1bn) in EU funding, 1,500 billion of which has already been unlocked, he said. A further 1,000 billion forints can be unlocked by the second half of the year, he added.
The government has to manage several times as much money to keep household utility bills low, Gulyas said. Given that the foundations of the economy and the budget are stable, it is high energy prices that can actually cause problems, he added.
Ujhelyi: ‘Hungarian interests, EU rules victorious’
Referring to an EU announcement made earlier in the day under which the community would continue to freeze 7.5 billion euros in cohesion funding for Hungary, Ujhelyi said the Hungarian government “now has an official certificate that they have committed crimes, trampling on all rules of democracy, the rule of law, and European values, and they abused EU funds in the past 12 years”.
Concerning the government’s negotiations with the European Commission aimed at accessing the funds, Ujhelyi said the commission had “accepted the (Hungarian) proposals initially, but then they saw that they had been watered up by the government and (ruling Fidesz’s) parliamentary majority”.
“In any other European democracy the prime minister should step down after a decision like that,” Ujhelyi insisted, adding that Orban himself “is an obstacle” in the way of an agreement and Hungary receiving those funds as soon as possible.
Ujhelyi added, however, he was glad that under Wednesday’s decision, Hungary would “not lose the EU funds for good”.