Monday

28th Nov 2022

Liberal MEPs demand von der Leyen scrutinise Hungary's plan

  • EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán met in April to negotiate over the recovery plan (Photo: European Commission)

A group of MEPs from the liberal Renew Europe group have written to EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to urge her not to approve Hungary's recovery plan until an effective anti-fraud system is in place in the country.

"We are not saying that Hungary as a country should not get its fair share of the EU's recovery funds. But we think those funds should benefit all Hungarians, not just a few politically-connected ones," the MEPs wrote in the letter, co-signed by group president Dacian Ciolos.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The MEPs, including Hungarian lawmaker Katalin Cseh, French MEP Valerie Hayer and Spanish legislator Luis Garicano, argue that the EU executive itself concluded that "determined systematic action to prosecute high-level corruption is lacking".

In the commission's 2020 economic recommendations - which are expected to be addressed in member states' national recovery plans - the executive said that "accountability for decisions to close investigations remains a matter of concern, as there are no effective remedies against decisions of the prosecution service not to prosecute alleged criminal activity".

It also adds that "restrictions on access to information continue to hinder the fight against corruption".

The MEPs want the commission to ask Budapest to allow access to all the final beneficiaries of EU recovery funds to the bloc's anti-fraud agency, OLAF, as a condition to accessing the recovery fund.

Another condition, proposed by MEPs, should be that Hungary adopts laws to ensure that persons and entities with a "record of serious financial irregularities or conflicts of interests found by OLAF" will not be able to access EU funds.

Hungary should also revise legislation that hinders access of journalists and civic organisations to public information.

The EU Commission's approval for Budapest's plan could come as early as 8 July, an EU official said. It concerns some €7.2bn of funding.

Von der Leyen has been visiting capitals of EU countries whose plans have been approved by the commission, although the council of member states also needs to give the green light for governments to access the funds.

Council scrutiny is expected to start in July. The council of member states will also need to approve the release of new tranches of money, once agreed milestones countries committed to in their plans are reached.

A commission spokesperson on Monday (28 June) said that member states need to explain to the commission the adequate control mechanism, and the commission assesses if those "controls system provide sufficient assurances".

"Member states will need to collect data on the final recipients of funds, the contractors, the subcontractors and the beneficial owners and make it available upon request," the spokesperson said.

Some EU countries have blocked the use of a common EU-wide database, called Arachne - which makes it harder for OLAF to monitor the flow of EU funds.

Over 20 countries have signed up to use the database voluntarily for the recovery fund, but they are not required to do so.

However, member states are to be required to set up national systems to record and report the final beneficiaries of EU recovery funds.

Hungary has been at the top of OLAF's investigation list for the two previous years, and has been leading the rate of financial recommendations - money to be recovered - in several annual reports by the agency.

EU Commission warns Hungary over anti-LGBTIQ measures

EU Commission vice-president Thierry Breton and justice commissioner Didier Reynders have written to Hungary's justice minister Judit Varga expressing legal concerns before the Hungarian bill - intended to protect children but including anti-LGBTIQ measures - enters into force.

Commission to approve first Covid-recovery plans next week

This means that, following council approval, and after the financing agreement has been signed with EU governments, the first countries can receive pre-financing from the recovery fund, of up to 13 percent of their allocated funds.

Analysis

Von der Leyen's moment to step up her game

"It is the opportunity she has to seize now to set the course for the remainder of her mandate," said Georg Riekeles from the European Policy Centre.

Agenda

EU's Hungary funds, China, energy, and Frontex This WEEK

In the European Parliament, MEPs will hear from ECB president Christina Lagarde, Kyiv's Vitali Klitschko, and from the three candidates proposed by the EU Commission to be the new boss of EU border agency Frontex.

Opinion

A missed opportunity in Kazakhstan

Tokayev received congratulations on his election victory from presidents Xi, Putin, Erdogan, and Lukashenko. However, the phone in the Akorda, Kazakhstan's presidential palace, did not ring with congratulatory calls from Berlin, Paris, London, or Washington.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Legal scholars: Prosecuting Putin 'legally problematic'
  2. A missed opportunity in Kazakhstan
  3. EU's Hungary funds, China, energy, and Frontex This WEEK
  4. Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges
  5. The 'proof' problem with EU sanctions — and how to fix it
  6. The EU gas cap: will the bottle ever be 'uncorked'?
  7. Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence
  8. Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us