Estonia has stressed the importance of the rule of law, however, it is in no rush to state an official position on the proposed withdrawal of EU funds from Hungary, pointing out that there are still two months to go before a final decision is made.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, that Estonia's position will ultimately be decided by the government.
"For Estonia, respect for the rule of law is extremely important," said Marika Linntam, director general of the Department for European Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Violations of the rule of law by Hungary must not harm the European Union's budget, or its financial interests. Therefore, we will follow the developments in the dialogue between the European Commission and Hungary closely until November 19, which is the deadline set for Hungary to provide details on the promised implementation of reforms to remedy the shortcomings," said Linntam, in response to a request from ERR to clarify Estonia's position.
On Sunday, the European Commission proposed withholding 65 percent of €7.5 billion earmarked for cohesion programs and policy in Hungary, due to breaches in the rule of law. Hungary's failure to respect the rule of law, calls into question the proper use of EU subsidies and allows them to be misused with impunity. However, the final decision on the withdrawal of the funds must be taken by the EU member states.
Linntam said, that Hungary was already working with the European Commission on proposals to improve the rule of law. The Commission considers the proposed changes sufficient in principle, provided they are properly implemented.
Hungary has committed to making 17 reforms, which should resolve the stand-off with the EU.
"The decision regarding whether to suspend (financial) commitments made to Hungary under the EU Cohesion Policy will be made by the Council of the EU (comprising government representatives from each of the EU member states - ed.) following a proposal from the European Commission, within three months, at the latest," said Linntam.
"In Estonia, the position on the (potential) suspension of EU Cohesion Policy funds for Hungary will be decided by the government, taking into account the European Commission's assessment of the extent to which the promised reforms have been implemented," Linntam added.
The EU Commission triggered the budget conditionality mechanism against Hungary in April, due to breaches in the rule of law, specifically in relation to public procurement and corruption investigations.
For the decision to be approved by the EU Council, a qualified majority of member states is required.
Editor: Michael Cole