MEPs vote to take Commission to court over €10.2 billion pay-off to Hungary

EPP members back move as final decision moves to EP Conference of Presidents to take EC to Court of Justice for having unblocked frozen funds to Hungary

Hungary prime minister Viktor Orban shakes hands with EC president Ursula von der Leyen
Hungary prime minister Viktor Orban shakes hands with EC president Ursula von der Leyen

The European Parliament has taken the European Commission to court over the unfreezing of €10.2 billion in EU funds for Hungary.

The surprising move follows an unprecedented resolution in which the European Parliament had already warned it would take the Commission before the European Court of Justice over Brussels’ decision to prematurely release frozen EU funds for the Hungarian government.

Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen last December controversially unblocked EU funds for Hungary, which were frozen over corruption and rule-of-law concerns. Hungary had been blocking the European Union from approving a €50 billion aid package for Ukraine, even while conceding to have the EU officially open accession negotiations for Ukraine to join the bloc.

The decision to take the EC to the Court of Justice came in a closed-doors meeting on Monday evening by the EP’s  legal affairs committee, to decide to sue the EU executive over the alleged breach of its obligation to protect taxpayer money from being misused. There were 16 votes in favour, and only one against, from a far-right member.

The move also carries the support of Von der Leyen’s own political group, the European People’s Party, whose leader Manfred Weber stressed the importance of defending the rule of law ahead of the June EU election.

“We believe we have a solid case, as the Commission has contradicted itself on whether Hungary is respecting the rule of law,” MEP Daniel Freund told Politico on Monday. “The Court of Justice of the EU has always stood up for the independence of the courts.”

Following the vote, it will be the Conference of Presidents that will have to agree to give President Roberta Metsola the go-ahead to take the EC to court before 25 March.

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