Hungary introduces new anti-graft bills to avoid losing EU money

Hungary introduces new anti-graft bills to avoid losing EU money

by Krisztina Than

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary’s government submitted a second batch of anti-corruption bills to parliament on Friday as Budapest steps up efforts to avoid losing vital European Union funding that could hurt its currency and economy.

The European Commission on Sunday recommended suspending the 7.5 billion euro funds over what it sees as Hungary’s failure to fight corruption and uphold the rule of law.

Budapest pledged to draft all legislation agreed with Brussels after lengthy talks. The Hungarian forint and Hungarian bonds have been sold off in recent weeks due to fears that Budapest could lose billions of euros in European Union money.

Monday’s first bill strengthened Hungary’s cooperation with the European Union’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, ensuring OLAF has support from Hungarian tax authority officials in its investigations into EU-funded projects and increasing transparency about how government asset management institutions operate.

On Friday, Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga introduced a set of additional measures, including a bill to create a body called the Integrity Commission, which would be able to intervene when local officials fail to intervene in cases of suspected fraud, conflict of interest or otherwise. irregularities related to EU funds.

The bill also provides for the creation of an anti-corruption working group consisting of government and non-governmental delegates who will be tasked with improving Hungary’s anti-fraud framework.

In the justification attached to the bill, Varga said: “The Hungarian government is committed to the full implementation of every corrective measure (17) that was taken as a result of the constructive and intensive cooperation with the Commission.”

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Hungary’s case is the first in the European Union to be subject to new financial sanctions aimed at better protecting the rule of law and fighting corruption in the 27-nation bloc.

Facing rising energy costs, a weak forint and the prospect of a recession next year, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has long been at odds with the EU over some of its policies, now appears ready to meet EU demands to create institutions that would reduce the risk of corruption in funded projects. from the European Union.

Earlier on Friday, Finance Minister Mihaly Varga said the Hungarian economy is heading into a “difficult period” due to high inflation and rising energy costs, which means the 2023 budget will have to be reworked.

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