Berlin / Brussels (dpa) - After the EU summit, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban rejects criticism from other member states that his government is restricting press freedom and undermining the rule of law.
The right-wing national politician said that the opposition was also very lively in the Hungarian media. For example, on television, in online portals and other publications there is “fierce criticism” of his government every day, as everyone can determine “with a three-minute Google search”.
Orban complained that the allegations against his government were so vague that it could hardly be countered. At the same time, he recalled that the Central and Eastern European states did not inherit their freedom but fought for it. "As a result, the rule of law is also a particularly valuable asset for them."
Critics accuse Hungary and Poland of violating fundamental freedoms and corrupt handling of EU aid. For this reason, a fundamental rights procedure against Article 7 of the EU treaties is ongoing against both countries.
One of the key issues at the four-day EU summit was the rule of law. Many member states had asked to link the disbursement of EU funds to compliance with the rule of law. Some Eastern European countries, including Hungary and Poland, had refused. The question could ultimately be solved with a compromise formula. The new text says the European Council underlines the importance of protecting the EU's financial interests and respecting the rule of law.
At the meeting of the 27 EU countries, a budget and financial package in the historical order of 1.8 trillion euros was agreed after four days of negotiations and massive disputes. With this, the EU wants to fight the corona economic crisis.
According to the compromise package at the EU special summit, Germany has to pay around ten billion euros more into the European budget each year. The annual transfer to Brussels will be around 40 billion euros in future, as the dpa learned from government circles. The EU money flowing back from Brussels to Germany is not included.
The candidate for the CDU chairmanship, former Union faction leader Friedrich Merz, said the decisions of the heads of state and government changed the entire EU financial architecture. "The EU's borrowing, guaranteed by the Member States, is very hard on the edge of the rules of the EU Treaty," he told the Funde media group's newspapers. "Expenditures can only be justified if they are geared towards future projects and strictly controlled." He expressly welcomed the fact that a link would be made between expenditure and the strict commitment to the rule of law. "Without this connection, the EU would have been permanently damaged in its innermost core."
The financial package comprises EUR 1074 billion for the seven-year budget until 2027 and EUR 750 billion for an economic and investment program. This reconstruction plan includes € 390 billion in non-repayable grants and € 360 billion in loans. The money is intended to cushion the unprecedented economic downturn and keep the EU internal market together.
The ratio was originally supposed to be 500 billion in grants to 250 billion in loans. Austria, in conjunction with other “economical” countries such as the Netherlands, reduced subsidies. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told OE24 that he was very satisfied. "More was possible than I originally thought." On the dispute over the coupling of EU funds to the rule of law, Kurz said on ORF that Orban had “been relatively successful”. There was a “strange situation”, namely that even Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and many others who usually insist on the rule of law have put pressure on them to come to an agreement. And that's why there was a compromise in the end. »
French President Emmanuel Macron promised his compatriots that there would be no additional tax to finance the Corona package. In the long term, however, he sees, for example, a digital tax for internet giants at European level, he said in a TV interview.
The taxpayers' association warned of wasted resources. "I see it extremely critically if grants worth billions are granted that are not linked to specific programs and measures," said association president Reiner Holznagel of the "Rheinische Post". There is a risk that "this money will simply be consumed". The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, Norbert Röttgen, told the newspaper that the success of the measures depend on the willingness of the recipient countries to use the funds consistently to modernize their economies. «It is part of the compromise to rely more on trust than control. That could prove problematic, »said the candidate for the CDU chairmanship.
Socialist group leader of the European Parliament, Iratxe García Pérez, said with regard to Hungary and Poland, EU payments should be bound "to ensure that our fundamental values of democracy and the rule of law are met". Regarding the overall financial deal, she told the FAZ that it was too early to start celebrating. "Now the European Parliament is in charge and I assure you that we will make full use of our contractual power." Among other things, the cuts in the "Horizon Europe" research program, the "InvestEU" investment fund, development aid, the Erasmus program and the "Digital Europe" program are worrying.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced in a dpa interview that she was working closely with the MPs. In addition, she stressed that the new rule of law, which should link the disbursement of EU money to compliance with EU values, will be effective. Orban, on the other hand, had contested the effectiveness of the clause - which only spurred criticism of the compromise.
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