EU member gets more frozen funds released

EU member gets more frozen funds released

The European Union has unlocked another batch of previously blocked funding for Hungary, citing Budapest’s alleged progress on gender equality. The decision came just days after Hungary voted to ratify Sweden’s application to NATO. 

The Hungarian business news outlet Portfolio was the first to report about the release of €2 billion ($2.2 billion). This was then confirmed to Bloomberg by Stefan de Keersmaecker, spokesman for the European Commission.

According to de Keersmaecker, the funds were unlocked after Hungary met “thematic conditions relating to educational training and gender equality.”

On Monday, the parliament in Budapest voted to approve fellow EU member Sweden’s application to join NATO, removing the last obstacle for Stockholm to be part of the US-led military bloc.

In December, the EU unblocked €10.2 billion in frozen funds, having declared that Hungary had made progress on “judicial independence.” The move came just before a European Council meeting scheduled to discuss a €50-billion package of military aid to Ukraine, which Budapest had been holding up.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban openly declared that Hungary would drop its opposition to Ukraine funding only if Brussels unfroze all of the funds his country was rightfully due.

At the end of 2022, the EU froze €22 billion ($23 billion) earmarked for Hungary, citing concerns over the independence of judges and Budapest’s supposed violations of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights on issues such as migration, LGBTQ rights, and academic freedom.

Orban has explicitly said that Hungary will not budge on “migration, gender, and the war,” describing these as issues on which no amount of money would make Budapest change its mind.

The EU is still sitting on about  €19 billion in funding originally earmarked for Hungary, half of which comprises Covid-19 recovery grants and the rest “cohesion funds” doled out to members of the bloc. 

Earlier this year, the Financial Times leaked a proposal by EU officials to sabotage Hungary’s economy if Orban persisted in defying the bloc. His government has denounced the plan as unacceptable and described it as “de-facto political rape.”

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