Macron Sees No Hungarian Rule-of-Law Progress Before April Vote
(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron said Hungary doesn’t intend to meet the European Union’s demands concerning the rule of law before it holds elections next year, meaning aid from the bloc will remain frozen.
Speaking after meeting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose clash with the EU has become a rallying call to Europe’s far right, Macron said no funds would be released until Hungary shows “concrete progress” in adhering to democratic values.
“There is a willingness from Hungarians to not make progress on these topics until the April elections,” Macron told a group of reporters in Budapest on Monday. “This means there will be no disbursement” of EU money, he said.
Macron also said Poland, which is also locked in a rule-of-law standoff with the 27-nation bloc, wouldn’t get money from the EU’s pandemic aid package either.
“My feeling is that there will be no progress in the short term,” he said. “At least there was no overture from the Polish government on this topic.”
Both Macron and Orban are campaigning for re-election in April, and polls suggest the French leader could potentially confront either nationalist leader Marine Le Pen or hardline anti-immigrant TV-journalist Eric Zemmour, in a runoff. Both have recently traveled to Hungary to meet the Orban.
France’s junior minister for EU affairs Clement Beaune said on Monday that Zemmour had imported some of Orban’s rhetoric anti-LGBTQ+ to France. He had also inspired other right-of-center presidential hopefuls on issues including freedom of the press, judicial independence and respecting opposition members, Beaune said.
Unlike his challengers, Macron also met Hungarian opposition leaders after meeting the prime minister, whom he called last week both a “political adversary” and a “European partner” with whom he hoped to find compromises.
The European Commission is withholding approval of funds from the EU’s 750 billion-euro ($849 billion) pandemic recovery package from Hungary and Poland over concerns that they aren’t meeting the the bloc’s democratic standards. A Macron adviser said the discussions with the Commission were unlikely to come to a conclusion before the end of the year.
In the first quarter of 2022, EU judges are expected to rule on a mechanism that conditions that member states adhere to the bloc’s rule of law standards to receive EU funds. That could lead to the suspension of regional aid to Hungary and Poland, according to the Macron adviser.
Still, the French president wants to rope these countries in on various issues, including regulating tech giants and legislation on carbon dioxide emissions, when he takes over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency in January. Macron insisted last week that it would be a mistake to push these countries to leave the EU.
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