It is true that the EU finances a wide range of projects in various fields, in order to promote innovation and development throughout the Union. This policy is part of the realization of EU goals and values, so it is absolutely necessary that the states safeguard them. On that note, it is equally indispensable that the EU have a sufficient structure to restore order and effectiveness, in case of infringement of its laws.
That being said, we would like to outline that the existing procedure is an extremely thorough and just one, as it provides member-states with enough time to implement the measures needed. In case they do not, it is the ECJ that decides on the penalty, ensuring complete transparency and having considered the country’s GDP, as well as the principle of proportionality, a pillar of the European and International Law. The European Court of Justice is also known to impose smaller fines than those initially proposed by the Commission, thus avoiding burdensome penalties that would, indeed, worsen the situation. We are talking about viable measures, that are aimed to restore the effectiveness of the financed projects and not to deliver vengeance.
First of all, let us present you the stages of an infringement procedure. The Commission, based on its own investigation or complaints from citizens, businesses and other stakeholders, can identify possible infringements of EU law. So, the first step is to send a letter of formal notice, requesting further information from the country concerned, which must send a reply within two months. If the Commission concludes that EU law is not upheld, it may send a reasoned opinion as a formal request to comply. It also requests that the country inform the Commission of the measures taken within two months. In case the country still doesn’t comply, the Commission may decide to refer the issue to the Court of Justice. This time, if the court finds that a country has breached the EU law, the national authorities must adhere to the Court’s judgement. If, despite that, the country still doesn’t comply, the following step is the second reference of the country to the Court by the Commission. Now, the Court can impose financial penalties, after considering the importance, duration and impact of the infringement and the country’s ability to pay.
If a member-state, despite that, does not adhere to EU standards, as well as the Court’s decisions, it becomes evident that it is a matter of will, not capability to do so. Consequently, there is no other choice for the Union than to cease financing, in hopes that this will be a sufficient incentive for conformance. It is a last resort, but a necessary one, although it does not constitute a common practice. Besides, it seems only fair that it is imposed only after extreme escalation of the situation and severe indications of unwillingness to cooperate, on the state’s part.
As for the case of Hungary, the conflict is rather a political one than a financial one, as the Article 7 of the TFEU provides the suspension of the country’s voting rights in the European Institutions, so we feel that further analysis would be a little beside the point here.
Concluding, we would like to underline that the procedure does not oppose to democracy and freedom, but It is a way to safeguard them, against malpractice and arbitrariness. Under no circumstances do the EU’s penalties attack the member-state’s sovereignty, which is the jurisdiction of a country over its territory and upon which, the countries have freely accepted EU’s supervision and authority in certain domains.