In April, after his surprisingly clear election victory, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban combative announcements to Brussels. Tenor: The voters would have strengthened him in such a way that his opponents in the EU could not help but give in. And one is certainly not dependent on their alms.
Now that a possible application of the rule of law mechanism is getting closer and closer, things are starting to sound different from Budapest. Of course, others are responsible for giving in. Justice Minister Judit Varga was after last week Brussels and then said she had had intensive discussions with representatives of the Commission on "specific issues and concrete commitments". The efficient and transparent use of EU money is a common interest, and Hungary is prepared to give “far-reaching guarantees” for this.
So far there is little on the table, but there have been many announcements. Most concretely: the government in Budapest has decided to set up an anti-corruption agency before November. The task of the independent body, which can take cases, should be to prevent, detect and correct irregularities in the use of EU money.
Efficient use of EU funding
The specific form can be found in the draft law, which is to be presented to the Hungarian Parliament by the end of September. In addition, the government wants a working group supported by the authority against corruption use, which is made up of equal numbers of state and non-state persons. But the government has decided even more: The minister responsible for the use of EU funding, Tibor Navracsics, should increase the efficiency of the tenders and explain the reasons in cases where only one bidder appears.
The opposition in Budapest responded to the announcements with rejection and sometimes with scorn. As so often, non-party MP Ákos Hadházy, a disappointed former Fidesz man, put the criticism in the sharpest possible terms: "Have you heard the joke that the government is setting up a new anti-corruption agency?"
He doubts that an agency set up by the government would investigate such cases, which Attorney General Péter Polt had previously rejected. Hadházy asks why Orbán doesn't just allow Hungary to join the European Public Prosecutor's Office instead. "Well, because he doesn't appoint the head of the European Public Prosecutor's Office."
Advantages for Orbán's environment?
The top prosecutor, Polt, is often criticized by the opposition for allowing investigations into people from Orbán's political or personal circles to bog down. The most prominent example is a report by the EU anti-fraud agency OLAF, which was ignored by the public prosecutor's office, on corruption in municipal street lighting contracts, which also concerned a company to which a son-in-law of the Prime Minister was connected.
Without any concrete papers being available, there are media reports about further steps with which the Orbán government wants to eliminate the concerns in Brussels. The newspaper "Népszava", which is critical of the government, lists, among other things: an extended obligation to declare assets for parliamentarians, a new regulation for foundations for asset management and a law according to which the authorities would have to support OLAF investigations.
The planned "authority for integrity" will be filled "apolitically" and the officials will be proposed for appointment by an international committee. In any case, Minister Varga was convinced: "We are working to ensure that Hungary and the Hungarians get what they are entitled to."