In the opinion of the EU Commission, Hungary has not adequately fulfilled its commitments for reforms to combat corruption.

There is therefore "an ongoing risk for the EU budget," the Commission said on Wednesday.

It is therefore sticking to its recommendation to the member states to freeze a total of 7.5 billion euros from cohesion funds earmarked for Hungary until 2027.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

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Stephen Lowenstein

Political correspondent based in Vienna.

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At the same time, the Commission is recommending the adoption of Hungary's plan to use €5.8 billion from the Corona Recovery Fund, set up in response to the pandemic.

However, these funds can only flow when the government in Budapest implements extensive reforms that go beyond fighting corruption.

In both cases, the EU finance ministers have until December 19 to decide.

The FAZ had already reported last week on the tough course the EU Commission was taking.

A foreseeable decision

The Hungarian government reacted calmly to the decision.

It comes as no surprise, Regional Development Minister Tibor Navracsics said in Budapest on Wednesday.

He tried to shed light on the fact that the Commission had approved Hungary's reconstruction plan and even praised it as "one of the best".

The fact that the money has not yet been paid out in this context is due to the deadline: The "timetable for legislation and the establishment of institutions" contains deadlines "that we still have to meet".

He hopes that in the coming year it will be possible to convince the Commission and the Council that it is no longer necessary to withhold payment of the funds and that the country will have 100% access to all funds.

The EU finance ministers are expected to vote on the Commission's recommendations in a special session;

this must be done by December 19th.

On the agenda will then also be resolutions on the implementation of a minimum tax of 15 percent for multinational corporations and budget support for Ukraine amounting to 18 billion euros.

Hungary has so far vetoed both.

If it stays that way, the Hungarian reconstruction plan would also be rejected;

a blocking minority of four states, which make up 35 percent of the EU population, is sufficient for this.

In contrast, funds from the budget can only be blocked if at least 15 countries with 65 percent of the EU population vote for it.

This hurdle is therefore higher, but would be politically achievable.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) said on Wednesday on the sidelines of the NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Bucharest that Germany would "then proceed together with other partners in terms of the rule of law mechanism, based on the recommendation of the EU Commission".

The rule of law is "the backbone of our European democracy and also of the internal market".

Meanwhile, the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is continuing its domestic campaign against EU sanctions against Russia.

The "Brussels sanctions" are presented on posters as a destructive bomb for the domestic economy.

Officially, however, there is no explicit link between the payment of EU funds and Hungary's approval of future sanctions and aid to Ukraine.