Hungary

Who is the EU funding?

, by Translated by Chiara Cettolin, Zoltán Kovacs

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

Who is the EU funding?
Péter Bárándy, former Hungarian Minister of Justice: “Manipulating the procurement process by announcing tenders in which the winner – a specific person or company - is already decided from the beginning is a violation of constitutional principles.” Foto: Pixabay / Capri23auto / Lizenz: CC0 1.0 Universell (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication

A commentary on EU funds allocation in Hungary.

Despite being Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán keeps claiming he is not a wealthy man. According to his wealth declaration of 2017, he and his wife had less than 3,200 euros in savings. Interestingly, every year the amount gets smaller.

His family members’ status (especially his parents’ and siblings’), however, is completely different: according to the business website G7.hu, their companies earned around 4.7 million euros in the form of dividends in 2017 alone. In the legislative period 2010-2014, the sum was only 1.2 million euros.

Back then, business was going well for the family members’ shifting companies, but until 2015 the owners preferred to hold back and keep a large amount of the money in the company in order to increase the revenue. From 2016, they have been making bank – to put it another way, they have started mopping up the profits of the previous years.

According to the business website G7.hu, the most lucrative sectors for the Orbán family are stone and peat quarries and the related logistics services. Part of their profits is supposed to come from works that are financed with EU funds.

This is even more remarkable if we consider that Viktor Orbán is always stressing that his family is not directly involved in any EU project (since it would be contradictory to his position). During the first Fidesz government (1998-2002), he allegedly advised his father not to channel company funds into public investments. As a matter of fact, his father didn’t follow the suggestion.

Meanwhile, a technical committee within the European Parliament has ascertained that there is something wrong with the Hungarian procurement process for EU-funded projects. According to Ingeborg Grässle, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control, 36% of tenders for public projects have only one bidder, and it is still unclear what criteria are used to award a contract. With reference to this situation, the former Hungarian Minister of Justice Péter Bárándy said: “Manipulating the procurement process by announcing tenders in which the winner – a specific person or company - is already decided from the beginning is a violation of constitutional principles.”

A recently released report has confirmed that Hungary is one of the largest beneficiaries of EU funds. In the last 5 years, over 50% of Hungarian public projects have been funded by EU money.

The Hungarian government is acting in a disconcerting and contradictory way. They are constantly fighting against the EU – as if it were the sole objective of this legislature – and hindering any attempt from Brussels to fund projects in line with the EU core values. This is particularly true with regard to the fight against corruption.

Although Angela Merkel has not been able to stand up for herself with her proposal to cut funding to member states that refuse to accept refugees, she can rely on the European Commission and in particular on the German Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Günther Oettinger. Over the next budget period (2021-2027), the European Commission intends to cut funding to eastern European member states for undermining democratic values and refusing to tackle corruption. The proceeds will be divided among member states in southern Europe.

It should not be forgotten that Hungary has already previously been compelled to pay significant compensation for having tendered EU projects at inflated prices. The EU institutions have informed the Hungarian government about this.

The business website portfolio.hu predicts that in Hungary, between 2014 and 2020, the development budget will amount to 23.6 billion euros. During the period 2021-2027, however, it is expected to drop to 17.9 billion euros.

The Orbán government has no intention of being influenced by the reduction of subsidies: they will go on leading their absurd fight for supposed freedom from the EU. What is also alarming is the fact that the government is inciting intolerance against migrants, especially because in Hungary there are no refugees.

Orbán and his party consistently keep ignoring that politics is culture-bound and morality-related. It is not a coincidence that the only ones who have managed to become a powerful player on the Hungarian political scene are those who have banned culture and morality from their mindset. In their view, these words are nothing but signs of weakness.

The original Hungarian article was first published in the still-existing weekly “Élet és Irodalom”.

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