The European Parliament demands the withdrawal of funds from Hungary as punishment for its homophobic laws

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The European Parliament has approved this Thursday by an overwhelming majority a tough resolution in which it “condemns in the strongest possible terms” the law passed in Hungary to prohibit any representation of homosexuality in schools and in television programs, advertising or any other platform accessible to those under 18 years of age. The text has come forward with the favorable vote of 459 MEPs from across the parliamentary arch, from the left to the Eurosceptics and Europhobes, 147 votes against and 58 abstentions. The large groups have supported the initiative but within the European People’s Party the abstention of 11 of the 13 Spanish MEPs of the PP stands out, including the head of the delegation, Dolors Montserrat. Among the popular Spaniards, only Esteban González Pons, vice president of the European popular group, has voted in favor.

The Parliament indicates in the approved resolution that the Hungarian norm constitutes a new step of the government of Viktor Orbán in its campaign of promotion of hatred towards the LGTBI community and supposes “a manifest violation of the values, principles and the Law of the Union”.

The resolution, agreed by five groups in the chamber (socialists, popular, liberal, green and left), calls on the European Commission to initiate an accelerated infringement procedure against Hungary, to immediately apply the regulation on respect for the rule of law to block the recovery fund items and not approve the framework for the disbursement of the structural funds foreseen for the period 2021-2027.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told the plenary of the European Parliament on Wednesday that she will use all the instruments at her disposal to stop the homophobic drift in Hungary as well as the growing deterioration of the rule of law. For the first time since Orbán returned to power in 2010, Brussels seems ready to reduce the multimillion-dollar financial flows that the EU transfers each year to Hungary as part of its cohesion and agricultural policies, as well as, from this year, from the fund recovery from covid-19.

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But the Hungarian prime minister has upheld the challenge on Thursday, the same day the controversial law came into force. “The European Parliament and the European Commission want us to let LGBTQ activists and their organizations enter kindergartens and schools,” Orbán said on a social network. The Hungarian leader fights back by accusing community institutions of invading a national competition such as education. “The Brussels bureaucrats have nothing to say on this issue, we will not let LGBTQ activists be among our children,” Orbán insisted in defense of a law that, according to Brussels, equates homosexuality with pornography and pedophilia.

The five groups that have promoted the resolution, which represent 75% of the seats in Parliament, underline the concern about the contagion effect of a Hungarian law inspired by the homophobic norms of the Russian government of Vladimir Putin. Poland and the Czech Republic have already threatened to adopt similar regulations to the Hungarian, despite the alarm that has spread in Brussels and the fact that the European Court of Human Rights has already ruled against Russian law aimed at prohibiting what it qualifies as “ gay propaganda ”.

The European Parliament resolution considers that Hungarian law “is not an isolated case, but is another deliberate and premeditated example of the gradual dismantling of fundamental rights in Hungary.” The same Parliament already urged in 2018 to initiate against Hungary the procedure provided for in article 7 of the EU Treaty, which allows countries that violate the fundamental values ​​of the Union to suspend the right to vote in the Council of the EU.

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This disciplinary procedure against Hungary, the same as the one initiated by the European Commission against Poland, remains blocked in the Council for lack of the qualified majority necessary to move forward. Both countries have counted on the complicity of other partners, especially from Central and Eastern Europe, to prevent the execution of a punishment that has never been used and that in political terms is equated in Brussels with a nuclear button.

The resolution approved this Thursday indicates the “deep concern over the fact that, since Parliament made use of Article 7, the situation of the rule of law and fundamental values ​​has continued to deteriorate in Hungary.” MEPs add that “violations of the human rights of LGTBI people are part of a broader political project aimed at dismantling democracy and the rule of law, including freedom of the media.”

The harshness of the text coincides with Orbán’s increasingly evident isolation on the European scene, in which he has gone from being an uncomfortable leader to becoming the target of infrequent furious attacks in the EU. Up to 18 European governments signed a joint declaration in favor of the rights of the LGTBI community last month in response to homophobic laws passed in Hungary. Orbán also found himself at the last European summit (June 24 and 25) with the hostility of the majority of his counterparts, including the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, or the French President, Emmanuel Macron. The Hungarian leader no longer has the backing of the European People’s Party, which at the beginning of the year forced the departure of Fidesz, the formation of Orbán, after a serious threat of expulsion.

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Political pressure and complaints from the European Commission to the European Court of Justice against various Orbán rules have not, however, had much of an effect so far on the Hungarian government. Brussels now intends to attack from the financial flank, given Hungary’s high dependence on EU funds.

These grants (more than 25,000 million euros between 2014 and 2020) in some years account for up to 60% of public investment in Hungary and among the large beneficiaries are individuals and companies close to the Orbán regime. Brussels has already found that on many occasions investment projects are awarded in public tenders to which only one offer is present, which encourages suspicions of a politically interested use of European funds.

Von der Leyen warned on Wednesday that in the autumn he will launch the first files based on the new regulation on conditionality linked to respect for the rule of law, a norm much feared by Orbán to the point that, together with the Polish government, he has challenged it before the European Court. The President of the Commission also stressed that the disbursement of the recovery fund is subject to milestones and objectives that allow the suspension or postponement of aid at any time. In the case of Hungary, Von der Leyen pointed out, the arrival of the fund may be subject to an improvement in anti-corruption measures, as well as the obligation for the authorities to collaborate with the investigations of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

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