Fact Check: European Union Did NOT Refuse To Send Hungary 'A Single Penny' In 2023


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Fact Check: European Union Did NOT Refuse To Send Hungary 'A Single Penny' In 2023 Got €3 Billion

Did the European Union refuse to send Hungary "a single penny" of budgetary finances in 2023? No, that's not true: Hungary has shared in an estimated 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) of EU money in 2023, according to a statement by European Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn. This is despite the European Commission's decision to freeze 22 billion euros ($23.6 billion) in cohesion funds designated for Hungary over concerns about systemic corruption, among other issues.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on TikTok by Hungary's governing Fidesz party on December 5, 2023, under the title "We will take what belongs to Hungary!" (translated from Hungarian to English by Lead Stories staff). The clip shows Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán discussing what he called "totem poles and myths" about Europe's economy in a speech to business leaders on December 1, 2023. He said (as translated):

One such myth ... is that an EU member state cannot prosper without EU money. I say this myth has been dispelled. The fact that we defended 2023 in such a way that we will clearly return to the path of growth in '24 -- even though Hungary did not get a single penny of European Union support -- clearly shows that it's possible to organize economic life in such a way that we build economic growth just on our own resources or from market resources, instead of, or without, the financial transfers to which Europe has become accustomed.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Fri Dec 8 14:32:11 2023 UTC)

On December 22, 2022, the European Commission announced it was suspending some 22 billion euros in cohesion funds earmarked for Hungary in the 2021-27 budgetary cycle. Hungary will receive this money in full if it allays Brussels' concerns about corruption, rule of law, judicial independence and other issues within two years, the Commission said.

That does not mean that the Commission immediately cut off all cash flows to Hungary, as demonstrated by an exchange between Daniel Freund, a member of the European Parliament from Germany, and Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner who oversees budgetary matters. On August 30, 2023, Freund submitted a parliamentary question asking:

Since December 2022, the Commission has frozen a significant part of EU funds to Hungary ... While Hungary's Recovery and Resilience Fund and all funds managed under the Common Provisions Regulation are currently being withheld, subsidies from other EU funds continue to be paid out. In particular, funding from the previous multiannual financial framework [2014-20] is still being paid.

What amount of EU funds has been paid to Hungary since January 2023 and from which budget lines?

Hahn's response on October 26, 2023, included a link to an Excel spreadsheet (shown below) that listed disbursements amounting to nearly 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion), based on data from the Commission's central accounting system.

Screen Shot 2023-12-08 at 10.38.33.png(Source: Screenshot taken on Fri Dec 8 15:38:33 2023 UTC)

Hahn stressed:

The information ... has been extracted at a specific point in time which does not complete a full financial year, thus the figures may differ from other official publications (e.g. the Financial Transparency System, Member States reports, others). Moreover, the [Excel spreadsheet] includes programmes managed by both the Commission and national authorities in Member States, such as ministries and public institutions -- shared management, where the Member State is an intermediate beneficiary re-distributing the EU funds to the final beneficiaries.

Moreover, the Commission announced on November 23, 2023, that Hungary would receive some 900 million euros ($968 million) in prefinancing from the REPowerEU Plan, which seeks to wean EU member states from Russian fossil fuels before 2030. That was a week before Orbán said Hungary had not received "a single penny" from Brussels in 2023.

At the time of his comments, Orbán was waging a public relations campaign, the so-called National Consultation, that accuses Brussels of forcing policies on Hungary that harm its national interests. Observers have speculated that Orbán is preparing to end Hungary's EU membership.

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