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Orban presses forward with anti-corruption plan amid EU spat

September 18, 2022

Budapest says it will fast-track new laws to tackle corruption and a lack of transparency in government procurement. The plan aims to end a standoff with Brussels as billions of euros in EU funding hangs in the balance.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at an EU leaders' summit in Brussels on May 30, 2022
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is keen to unlock billions in EU fundsImage: Nicolas Landemard/Le Pictorium/MAXPPP/picture alliance

Hungary said Saturday that it would try to end a standoff with the European Union by passing a series of new anti-corruption laws within days.

What do we know about the new laws?

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff told reporters that the legislation would be submitted to parliament next week and, if approved by MPs, could enter into force in November.

The measures will likely include the creation of independent anti-corruption watchdogs to monitor the use of EU funds as well as steps to make the government procurement process more transparent.

"The government has either accepted the requests of the European Commission, or, in the areas where we could not accept them, we have managed to reach a compromise that is satisfactory to both parties," chief of staff Gergely Gulyas told a media briefing.

The announcement comes as the European Commission decides the fate of billions of euros of frozen EU funds allocated to Budapest from the bloc's 2021-2027 budget.

Reuters news agency cited two EU officials as saying that the Commission will next week recommend suspending the payments due to concerns over graft, in what would be the first such move against Orban.

Brussels has accused Orban's fiercely nationalist government of undermining the rule of law and using EU money to enrich its cronies.

Hungarians feel the sting of rising prices

EU lawmakers accuse Orban of damaging democracy

Last week, a large majority of EU lawmakers voted to condemn damage to democracy in Hungary since Orban took power in 2010, stepping up pressure on the bloc to cut funding for the ex-communist country.

Hungary is also earmarked to receive €5.8 billion ($5.8 billion) from the EU's COVID-19 recovery fund but Brussels has yet to sign off on Budapest's spending plan for the money.

Hungary had by far the highest share of irregularities in the whole bloc in spending EU funds from 2015 to 2019, according to the EU anti-fraud agency.

Brussels has long called for transparency, competition and accountability in public procurement.

Orban is under pressure to boost Hungary's economy at a time of fast-rising inflation and a weakening local currency.

mm/wd (AFP, Reuters)