(Bloomberg) -- Hungary is poised to miss a self-imposed Friday deadline to overhaul its judiciary as required by the European Union, further delaying the flow of €28 billion ($31 billion) of EU funds.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government in November pledged to meet EU demands to bolster judicial independence by March 31, which it said at the time would allow it start receiving fresh money from the bloc by the second quarter.
By Friday, the government hadn’t implemented the court overhaul as promised and lawmakers didn’t have related legislation scheduled for a vote, according to parliament’s website.
“If it had been up to us, all deadlines would’ve been met by today,” Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga said in a Facebook post. “Negotiations related to the judiciary are in the home stretch, there are no open political questions and the ball is in the court” of the European Commission, she said.
The EU doesn’t expect that the issue will be resolved on Friday since the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, isn’t fully satisfied with the proposed changes, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Hungarian and EU officials have nonetheless been in intense talks over the planned changes, which are aimed at reducing the potential for political meddling in court cases. Both sides see an agreement within reach, Bloomberg reported on March 23.
The EU last year blocked much of the new funding earmarked for Hungary due to graft and rule-of-law concerns following more than a decade of power consolidation by Orban.
At issue is access to €22 billion in so-called cohesion funds meant to boost poorer regions in the EU, €5.8 billion in Covid recovery funds and another nearly €10 billion in recovery loans.
The EU is demanding that Orban reverse changes seen as undermining judicial independence. The judiciary steps are part of the commission’s 27 key conditions for Hungary, known as super-milestones and which cover remedial measures to address concerns related to the use of EU cash.
Hungary has fulfilled “the majority” of the super-milestones, Varga said.
In a separate process, the EU executive is withholding cohesion funds over concerns related to the bloc’s fundamental rights such as academic freedom and LGBTQ and asylum rights.
--With assistance from Jorge Valero.
(Updates with Hungarian justice minister in fourth and 10th paragraphs.)
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