Hungarian MEP raises questions over his country’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan

István Ujhelyi says there’s been no meaningful consultation on the plan by Viktor Orbán’s government.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

23 Apr 2021

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán meets European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Friday, with the EU’s pandemic recovery blueprint top of the agenda.

Ahead of the meeting, one Hungarian MEP has highlighted what he calls several “questionable and problematic aspects” of his country’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

The plan sets out the reforms and public investment projects that Hungary plans to implement with the support of the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

The RRF is the key instrument at the heart of NextGenerationEU, the name given to the EU's recovery plan from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the Commission’s initiative, each Member State has to submit a detailed plan to the executive before it qualifies for its share of the huge €750bn recovery plan package. The aid aims to help each Member State mitigate the huge economic impact of the health crisis.

On Thursday, Hungarian Socialist member István Ujhelyi sent a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in which he draws her attention to "questionable and problematic aspects” of the Hungarian recovery plan.

His letter is timed to coincide with Orban’s visit of to Brussels later on Friday.

“Governments should conduct a concrete consultation process on the draft recovery and resilience plan in order to guarantee that the final version is taking into account the opinion of all relevant actors. This sounds self evident; however, it might not be as obvious for the Hungarian government as for other member states” Hungarian SocialistMEP István Ujhelyi

Ujhelyi writes, “I want to emphasise the importance and the role of a meaningful partnership between the government and the local or regional governments, trade unions, social partners and civil society organisations when it comes to preparation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans in the Member States.”

“Governments should conduct a concrete consultation process on the draft recovery and resilience plan in order to guarantee that the final version is taking into account the opinion of all relevant actors.”

The Socialist deputy, a member of both the European Parliament’s environment and transport committees, said, “This sounds self evident; however, it might not be as obvious for the Hungarian government as for other member states.”

“Unfortunately, there has been no meaningful and comprehensive consultation conducted by the Hungarian government. The draft text in its plan refers to a parliamentary debate as key element of the government’s consultation process.”

“However, the reality is that the parliamentary debate in Hungary has been initiated by the opposition parties and this in order to at least get familiar with the basic concept of the government concerning the planned reforms and investments.”

“Unfortunately the final draft plan has not been published by the Hungarian government.”

The letter points out that there are “formal errors” in the Hungarian plan, such as an alleged lack of public consultation and lack of involvement of the local or regional governments, NGOs and trade unions.

"Orban is eager to get his slice of the pie, even though he threatened late last year to veto the entire recovery fund and the new EU budget unless EU lawmakers scrapped plans to make receipt of European funds conditional on respect for the EU's rule of law norms” EU law expert R. Daniel Kelemen

Ujhelyi says, “I am calling on the Commission to ensure the involvement of all relevant Hungarian actors. This is only possible by conducting a proper consultation with the Hungarian local government associations and trade union federations.”

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has started its own scrutiny of the national recovery plans every EU country must present.

Portugal’s recovery and resilience plan is the first plan officially submitted to the Commission.

On Thursday, von der Leyen, in a statement, welcomed the Portuguese proposal and urged other Member States to now come forward with their own plans as quickly as possible so as to help support EU economies.

She said, “Across Europe, we can see vaccination campaigns accelerating. In parallel, it is now all the more important to launch NextGenerationEU. Economic recovery must go hand in hand with an improved health situation on the ground. I welcome Portugal‘s recovery and resilience plan as the first one officially submitted to the Commission.”

She added, “The Commission looks forward to assessing the Portuguese plan, which focuses on resilience, climate and digital transitions and includes projects in almost all of the European flagship areas.

"We will continue to engage intensively with Member States to help them deliver high quality plans. Our goal remains to adopt all plans by the summer. For the first payments to be made, we need all Member States to have approved the Own Resources Decision. I am confident that all will be in place by the summer.”

Commenting on Orban's visit, R. Daniel Kelemen, an expert in EU law, told this site, "Orban is eager to get his slice of the pie, even though he threatened late last year to veto the entire recovery fund and the new EU budget unless EU lawmakers scrapped plans to make receipt of European funds conditional on respect for the EU's rule of law norms.”

“He backed down in the end and the Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation was passed, so he now faces the prospect that the Commission may call for a suspension of some of his EU funds in the coming year.”

“To make matters worse for Orban, his party was recently pushed out of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) and lost the protective shield they long provided him.”

“He is likely to play nice with von der Leyen at their meeting in hopes of convincing her not to suspend the flow of EU subsidies to the EU's first autocratic member government."

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