28th May 2023

Hungary blames conspiracy for EU corruption rating

  • Hungarian government spokesman Zoltán Kovács (Photo: Zoltan Kovacs' office)
Listen to article

Hungary has blamed a conspiracy for coming bottom in an EU corruption rating as it seeks to unfreeze European funding.

"Transparency International [TI] is a member of the Soros Network," Hungarian government spokesman Zoltán Kovács tweeted on Tuesday ( 31 January).

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

"This network finances the campaigns of the domestic and international Left and serves it with its slanderous reports," he added.

Hungary's far-right government has a long track-record of intimating conspiracies, including allusions to the trope that US-based Jewish philanthropist George Soros secretly pulls the strings in European politics.

Kovács spoke after TI placed Hungary bottom out of the 27 EU states in its newest rating on worldwide perceptions of corruption, citing "a decade of democratic backsliding and systemic deterioration of the rule of law at the hands of the ruling party".

The low rating comes at a painful time, with Hungary trying to convince the EU to unfreeze billions of euros of funding withheld over rule-of-law and corruption concerns.

Some €138bn earmarked for Poland and Hungary "are not being paid out because of both governments' refusal [to] fully respect EU values and the rule of law", German Green MEP Daniel Freund also said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the respected Berlin-based NGO openly declares its funding, a fraction of which comes from Soros' Open Society Foundations.

"After a decade of steady decline on the [corruption index] it is not surprising that Hungary has ended up at the bottom of the ranking of EU countries this year," TI's Nick Aiossa told EUobserver in reaction to Kovács' comment.

"It is imperative that the [EU] Commission continues to suspend funds in the absence of meaningful national anti-corruption reforms," he added.

The new report painted a sad picture of Europe more broadly speaking, where the Czech Republic, Greece, and Ireland were the only EU states to improve their ratings year-on-year.

Denmark, Finland, and Sweden came top as usual, but TI complained of "stagnation" in their anti-corruption efforts.

It spoke of "opaque influence and political integrity deficits" in France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

It singled out Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, and Spain for "weak enforcement and slow implementation of anti-corruption measures".

It said declines in Austria and Malta's ratings, as well as Hungary's, were "accelerated by threats to rule of law".

And it warned that spyware scandals and shady defence industry deals risked taking the sheen off Greece and Sweden's good performance.

The broader findings gave the lie to Kovács' claims that Hungary was being singled out.

The Hungarian spokesman added that TI "did not investigate the Brussels bureaucracy or the [EU Parliament], which were — magically — left off the list", alluding to the Qatargate bribery scandal.

But there is nothing magical about this, since TI has only ever rated EU countries, rather than individual institutions, let alone multilateral ones.

And for all that, its latest study still took Brussels to task.

"The EU is reeling from a massive corruption scandal with allegations that current and former members of the European Parliament and their staff took bribes from Qatari officials — along with reports also implicating Morocco — in exchange for influence," it said in its press release, arguing for urgent reforms.

EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos

Hungary will be in the spotlight on Tuesday as EU governments struggle over suspending EU funds to prime minister Viktor Orbán's government — despite rule of law concerns — and unlock key EU policies which Budapest has been blocking.

MEPs urge Orbán to act to unblock EU money

MEPs tasked with controlling spending of EU funds said they continued to have "great concerns" on how Hungary is handling EU money and called on prime minister Viktor Orbán's government to implement the necessary reforms to unblock suspended EU funds.

Latest News

  1. How the EU's money for waste went to waste in Lebanon
  2. EU criminal complicity in Libya needs recognition, says expert
  3. Europe's missing mails
  4. MEPs to urge block on Hungary taking EU presidency in 2024
  5. PFAS 'forever chemicals' cost society €16 trillion a year
  6. EU will 'react as appropriate' to Russian nukes in Belarus
  7. The EU needs to foster tech — not just regulate it
  8. EU: national energy price-spike measures should end this year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us