Tibor Navracsics, the regional development minister, told parliament’s economic affairs committee at a hearing on Monday that 95% of Hungary’s EU funding for the 2014-2020 budget period has been tapped so far, financing 52,000 projects. Hungary is a top performer in terms of successfully utilizing funds, he said. In the last funding period, Hungary had 11.5 billion euros in resources, and, taking domestic co-financing into account, the EU framework amounted to 27 billion, he said. In addition, Hungary has been able to tap an additional 2.1 billion euros in aid up to 2025. The 2021-2027 EU funding period is also underway, he noted, and talks on cohesion funds and the support and loan parts of recovery funds started last year.
Last December, the European Commission endorsed the Hungarian operational programmes and the Council approved the use of the support part of the national reconstruction plan, he added. Hungary and EC concluded the partnership agreement, ensuring cooperation for the financial period 2021-2027, paving the way for the utilisation and withdrawal of cohesion funds, the minister said. On Dec 8, the EU economy and finance ministers approved Hungary’s plan, freeing up the loan part of the recovery fund, Navracsics said. In May, parliament adopted the legislative amendment in connection with EC concerns over the rule of law, and the EC asked the government to further clarify various issues in two rounds. The minister said he trusted the EC would acknowledge the answers and it would be possible to move forward and access the funds. As the EC has adopted Hungary’s operative programmes and projects to be financed from the recovery fund during the period, the country “has managed to avoid losing funds and implementation of the operative programmes has started,” he said. But concluding talks with the EC did not mean “automatic access” to community funds “even if the political conditions have been settled”. The EU has frozen 55% of the funding for three operative programmes “until the Hungarian government comes up with solutions that the EU finds reassuring,” he said. The EU “came up with further questions and concerns” about six months ago, which “the government is trying to manage, but an agreement has not been reached yet,” he said. Cohesion and recovery funds were crucial, he said, for the country to narrow existing disparities, and the goal was to make optimum use of those funds to that end. The government will continue to use EU funds to “reduce the development differences” between various regions of Hungary, he said. When it comes to university foundations and related EU funds, he noted the matter has been on the agenda since February, and the EC had come up with new demands. Hungarian students can participate in the Erasmus programme until September 2024. It was likely, he added, that an agreement may be reached ensuring that Hungarian students take part in mobility programmes thereafter, too. Navracsics said the European Parliament was putting political pressure on the EC, which complicated negotiations. Meanwhile, he said Hungary had begun tapping EU funds for the 2021-2027 period and was outperforming other member states in drawing down the money. Addressing tasks ahead after Jan 1, Navracsics said state administration and local government tasks will be transferred to the public administration and regional development ministry.