In recent weeks, some really specific measures have indeed been taken at government level solely to prove to Brussels that everything is fine with disbursements. But that’s not the case. Not in the least.
The situation is much more serious and a far more comprehensive solution is needed to the systemic looting of EU funds. It is a fact that the disbursement of EU funds in Hungary has already been suspended on many occasions because unacceptable malpractices around government tenders were revealed. It was precisely in response to my written question that the European Commissioner for Regional Policy of the European Commission has confirmed: "There is still a high risk of corruption in Hungary, therefore the anti-corruption framework needs to be strengthened." It is a documented fact that a significant part of the EU funds of the Territorial and Urban Development Operational Program (TOP) has been disbursed on a political rather than professional or socially disadvantaged basis. In at least eight counties, we know of specific cases that only increase suspicion: local Fidesz-leaders have handed out European public funds to their own potentates, which goes against EU regulations and applicable laws.
In order for EU taxpayers' money to end up at the right place and not, for example, with the Orbán-family and their circle of friends and relatives, much more needs to be done to tighten control over tendering and payment. There are currently a number of direct sources available, but a more comprehensive solution is needed: direct subsidies have to be made available to local governments on a systemic level. In the next seven-year EU budget, it must be guaranteed that local governments can apply for developments that are important to them, such as a social housing scheme or local healthcare development, without being at the mercy of the Member State government. The same position is shared by opposition Budapest mayor candidate Gergely Karácsony. In a recent letter to opposition MEPs he pointed out that in limited numbers, but there are existing EU mechanisms in place for direct EU support for towns, but this practice should also be extended and raised to a more effective level. The same practice is advocated by the socialist mayors of Kispest, Salgótarján, Hajdúdorog, Ajka, Kazincbarcika and Szeged. EU funds serve to improve the lives of Hungarian people and the development of their homes, their environment, as opposed to what Fidesz thinks about the purpose public money, namely that it ought to increase the fortune of the government elite.
After the Hungarian PM’s landmark speech in Tusványos in 2014, in which he proclaimed his desire to turn Hungary into an illiberal state, I pledged to draw the public’s attention to the transgressions of this regime in an open letter every week. This is the 253rd time I ring the bells of alarm, as it still seems necessary. And also because as a radical European Democrat it is my duty to do so.
dr. István Ujhelyi