Monday

20th May 2019

NGO: Hungary political rights at lowest point since 1989

The political rights of people in Hungary are at their lowest point since the fall of communism in 1989, according to a new report.

Berlin-based Transparency International in its 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) out Tuesday (29 January) said Hungary, along with Malta, had registered some of the sharpest drops in recent years in the global rankings.

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"Hungary and Malta have seen the sharpest decline in their respective CPI scores in recent years, allowing corruption to worsen," said the NGO, in a statement.

It also said Hungary had "registered its lowest score for political rights since the fall of communism in 1989."

The index ranks the perception of corruption in 180 countries based on surveys and expert assessments. It then attributes a score, from highly-corrupt 'zero' to the very clean '100'.

Hungary went from 55 in 2012 to 46 in 2018. Malta dropped as well, moving from 60 in 2015 to 54 in 2018.

Hungarian legislation on NGOs and courts, along with allegations that it committed fraud with EU funds, is largely behind the drop.

But it also comes amid earlier demands by the European Parliament to sanction Hungary's backsliding on democracy following its moves against media freedom, migration and the rule of law.

In December, the Budapest-based Central European University, was forced out of Hungary.

It had been founded by US billionaire George Soros, a man portrayed by Hungary's government and other populists as a pariah bent on encouraging mass migration to Europe.

Orban is now pressing to get his anti-immigrant rhetoric to shape the future platforms of the EU institutions. Earlier this month, he said it was Hungary's goal in the lead up to the European elections.

Such moves have proved tricky for the centre-right EPP group, which counts among its members Orban loyalists.

Meanwhile, Transparency International says Malta's slip in the rankings follows the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

It also comes amid scandals implicating the inner circle of people close to Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat, over allegations of kickbacks for selling passports to wealthy overseas investors.

Those scandals are further linked to secretive offshore companies in Panama and the collapse of Pilatus bank, whose founder was arrested by US authorities last year.

Despite the Hungary and Malta drop, they still fare better than Bulgaria.

Bulgaria ranks at the bottom of the EU list with a score of 42, followed by Greece at 45.

At the top of the chart is Denmark with 88, followed by both Finland and Sweden with 85.

Soros' university forced out of Budapest, despite EU pledges

The American university is forced to move to Vienna, as EU institutions fail to curb Hungarian nationalist premier, Viktor Orban's push against academic freedom. "It is a dark day for Europe and a dark day for Hungary," the rector said.

EU passport sales create 'proud Maltese citizens'

Malta says its 'Golden Visas' scheme attracts families that want to become "proud Maltese citizens". Meanwhile the sales to Russian nationals, and others, have generated over €700m in revenue.

Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Simon Busuttil spent 10 years as an MEP before returning to Malta to lead the opposition. He now fears for his life amid probes into high-level corruption in Malta's government.

EP triggers sanctions procedure, Hungary calls 'fraud'

The parliament launched a sanctions procedure against Hungary in an unprecedented vote that required a two-thirds majority from MEPs. Hungary is calling the vote a "fraud" and a "petty revenge" for its hardline migration policy.

MEPs call on EU countries to deal with Hungary

MEPs who launched a procedure examining the democratic situation in Hungary last year now want member states to step up efforts. The government in Budapest meanwhile accuses MEPs of attacking Hungary over migration.

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