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'Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán forced to choose between power or money'

According to Brussels, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has systematically been dismantling the rule of law in Hungary since 2010. In a final attempt to do something about this, the EU wants to make payment of subsidies dependent on respect for the rule of law.

Armin Cuyvers

This is reason for Hungary and Poland to dig their heels in and refuse to approve the EU budget. As a result, Hungary has created a huge problem for Brussels.  

Orbán feels the storm brewing, says Associate Professor European Law Armin Cuyvers in Dutch TV programme EenVandaag. 'Orbán is dependent on European subsidies. His country is an important net beneficiary of European funds.  At the same time, Orbán has been busy reinforcing his power basis by dismantling the rule of law. Taking over control of judges and independent research institutions has enabled him to expand his power basis. If he were to accept rule of law, he would be limiting his power and therefore his options. He is being forced to choose between power or money, and he doesn’t want to have to make that choice.'

Monitoring how European subsidies are spent is failing in Hungary because the courts are no longer independent. For example, a case concerning Orbán’s son-in-law was investigated by the European anti-corruption watchdog. Ultimately, however, it is down to the Hungarian judicial authorities to pursue court proceedings against him, and that won’t happen in Hungary.

'If Rutte in the Netherlands were to embezzle 100 million euros, he would be prosecuted and taken to court. But if there are no independent courts or prosecutors, there’s nothing to fear. So Orbán doesn’t have to worry that a prosecutor he has appointed, and who is loyal to him, will prosecute him. That’s why it’s important for the Union to establish the rule of law. The national rule of law must function properly, if the Union is to have effective controls.'

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