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Title: EU lawmakers raise pressure to cut funds for Hungary over graft woes

Sep 15, 2022 08:17AM ET

By: AnalysisWatch

A large majority of European Union lawmakers voted Thursday to condemn the damage done to democracy in Hungary by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, increasing pressure on the bloc to cut funding for the former communist country.

Citing the risk of corruption, the European Commission is expected to recommend this week the suspension of billions earmarked for Budapest in the €1.1 trillion ($1.1 trillion) joint budget for 2021–27.

It would be the first such move by the EU under a new financial sanction, called "cash for democracy" and agreed two years ago precisely in response to Orban, as well as his allies in Poland, backing away from liberal-democratic assumptions inside the bloc.

On Thursday, the European Parliament voted 433 in favor and 123 against to adopt a report stating "there is a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the (European) Union is based."

"The situation has deteriorated so that Hungary has become an "electoral autocracy" rather than a democracy," the chamber said in a statement.

In response, Orban's ruling Fidesz party said the EU parliament was more interested in vilifying Hungary than solving the economic crisis caused by soaring energy costs, exacerbated by Russia's war in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Moscow.

"It is astonishing that even in the current crisis, the leftist majority of the European Parliament is only busy attacking Hungary," Fidesz said in a statement.

"The left in Brussels wants time and again to punish Hungary and withhold funds owed to our country."

Orban has been locked in acrimonious feuds for years with the EU, which Hungary joined in 2004, over the rights of migrants, gays, and women, as well as the independence of the judiciary, media, and academia.

The self-styled illiberal crusader, however, denies that Hungary is more corrupt than other countries in the 27-nation bloc.

The European Commission has already blocked some €6 billion owed to Budapest from a separate COVID economic stimulus package, citing insufficient anti-corruption safeguards in Hungarian public procurement.

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