Věra Jourová: I cannot foresee what will please Viktor Orbán

November 29. 2023. – 11:01 AM



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"The Kyiv government is working very hard to meet the expectations set as a precondition for beginning accession negotiations, possibly within a few weeks," European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová said on Tuesday, reporting on her visit to Ukraine earlier this week, Népszava reports.

One of the conditions is the adoption of legislation which has long been demanded by the Hungarian government, allowing minorities to use their mother tongue. Jourová said that the pertaining amendments are already before parliament, and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal promised that they would be approved by MPs before the end of the year. "I have been assured that the chosen model is politically and practically viable. But I cannot predict whether the Hungarian prime minister will be satisfied with this law.

"I can confirm that I cannot foresee what will please Viktor Orbán," the Commission Vice-President said.

The new Ukrainian language law would essentially eliminate the passages that the Hungarian government believes would prevent the Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia from studying in their mother tongue, and even from using their mother tongue in general.

In response to a question from Népszava, Jourová said that Brussels would make the release of a significant part of the catch-up funding for Hungary conditional on whether the country has succeeded in strengthening the independence of the judicial system in line with expectations. The evaluation of the judicial reform and the threat of a Hungarian veto on the financial aid package for Ukraine are not linked, she noted.

“The Hungarian government is putting a lot of effort into meeting expectations and is communicating very intensively with the European Commission,”

Jourová said, adding that the Commission's decision cannot be dragged out indefinitely, but for the time being they are awaiting clarifications from Budapest on their follow-up questions.

The EU has almost completely blocked the cohesion funding for the 2021-2027 budget period from Hungary. The Hungarian budget did receive an advance from these funds last year, and some money may still trickle in from the "technical assistance" side-pocket, which covers additional administrative costs. The biggest 'horizontal' conditionality, blocking almost all of the roughly €22 billion, is the judicial reform. According to current information, the government is now relatively well advanced on this: they reported it finished in mid-July, and spoke about a principled agreement. Since then, the European Commission has written to the Hungarian authorities twice, requesting more information. Until Hungary responds, the clock is "stopped". Read more about this here.

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