EU unblocks €10bn in funds for Hungary

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European Commission releases €10.2 billion for Hungary 

On Wednesday, the European Commission unlocked €10.2 billion in EU cohesion funds for Hungary. This move comes just a day before European leaders are poised to discuss new aid for Ukraine and the initiation of accession negotiations for Kyiv, which is strongly opposed by Hungary's far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

In a press release, the Commission conveyed its decision to release the funds after a meticulous evaluation and multiple dialogues with the Hungarian government. The statement highlighted that the Commission deems Hungary fulfilled the committed measures to receive the frozen funds. "This means part of the cohesion policy funding would no longer be blocked, and therefore Hungary may start claiming reimbursements of up to around €10.2 billion."

This development unfolds against a protracted dispute between Orbán's government and Brussels. The EU had previously frozen billions of euros in funds for Hungary, citing concerns related to human rights and the rule of law.

Hungarian media outlets warn about new law "restricting press freedom"

Ten independent Hungarian media outlets have warned against a new legislation called the “Sovereignty Protection” law, writing it is “capable of severely restricting press freedom." The media organizations contend that the law approved by the Hungarian parliament could make it challenging, if not impossible, for independent newsrooms, journalists, and media firms to function effectively.

PM Viktor Orbán said Western governments are financing and guiding his adversaries. In recent weeks, the Hungarian government has heightened its domestic communication, emphasizing claims of foreign interference in Hungarian public affairs and advocating for stricter regulations to "safeguard the nation's sovereignty."

The approved law establishes a Sovereignty Protection Office endowed with extensive powers to investigate individuals active in public life. A spokesperson from the Hungarian government emphasized that the office would operate independently with a separate budget, concentrating on analysis, evaluation, and investigation to preserve constitutional identity by scrutinizing foreign interventions in Hungary's democratic processes.

Erdoğan to meet with Katalin Novák and Viktor Orbán at MÜPA 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is visiting Budapest, to attend the opening ceremony of the 2024 Hungarian-Turkish Cultural Year with the Hungarian Head of State Katalin Novak and Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The visit will take place in the context of the Hungarian-Turkish council meeting scheduled for the end of the summer, but it could also cover the issue of Sweden's accession to NATO, which both countries have been delaying.

Bertalan Havasi, the prime minister's press chief said the Turkish president would come to Budapest mainly for a meeting of the Hungarian-Turkish High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council. The visit would also mark the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

Contracts between Hungarian government-funded institutes and conservative figures raise FARA concerns

The Orbán government has consistently sought ties with international conservative groups and individuals. Hatewatch has obtained contracts involving U.S. conservative figures and the Hungarian government, suggesting that they might need to register as foreign agents under U.S. law.

The documents seen by Hungarian investigative outlet Atlatszo and Hatewatch suggest three right-wing figures, Christopher Rufo, Michael O’Shea, and Claremont Institute senior fellow Jeremy Carl have signed agreements with the Hungarian government-funded nonprofit Batthyány Lajos Foundation. This organization oversees the Danube Institute, an Orban-adjacent Hungarian think tank. The contracts, dated from 2022 and 2023, outline commitments such as delivering speeches, making media appearances, and providing reports.

A crucial revelation from the contract analysis indicates the possible manipulation of language within the contracts by the organization to avoid potential obligations under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).