The European Commission is urged to reject a coronavirus stimulus package for Hungary over concerns about fraud, corruption and the country’s stance on LGBTQ + rights.
A multi-party group of left-wing and liberal MEPs have written to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, asking her to send the Hungarian government back to the drawing board over its spending plans for a clawback grant. coronavirus by € 7.2 billion (£ 6.19 billion).
Last month, the committee began approving national plans by EU member states to spend their shares of a € 750 billion Covid stimulus fund, as it embarks on a borrowing exercise spouse considered as a historic step for the integration of the EU.
Hungary has requested € 7.2 billion in grants under this program, which would be the largest transfer of funds from the EU since joining the Union in 2004.
Long-standing allegations of fraud and nepotism linked to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have alarmed MEPs, especially as his government has failed to act on previous recommendations from Brussels on ensuring the independence of judges, improving transparency and fighting corruption.
“Respect for the rule of law and sound financial management are key elements for a successful recovery in Europe,” said the letter signed by seven MPs from the Green, Liberal, Social Democratic and radical left parties. “Citizens must be fully assured that taxpayers’ money is being invested correctly and that it is not being used to undermine the foundations of the EU. “
The letter was not signed by any politician from Europe’s largest political family, the center-right European People’s Party, although Orbán’s Fidesz party left the group shortly after last year. before his probable deportation.
Stressing that the demand to tear up Hungary’s stimulus package is not aimed at the Hungarian people, MEPs said the Orbán government should be forced to rewrite its proposal in order to benefit from EU funds.
In addition to concerns about corruption, MPs highlighted a recently passed Hungarian law that bans the portrayal of homosexuals in educational material and juvenile entertainment content, a law condemned by von der Leyen as “a disgrace … [that] clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation ”.
Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, a French Green MEP who monitors the rule of law in Hungary, said: “It is extremely worrying that the recent law scapegoating LGBTIQ people may be exacerbated by stimulus funds intended for LGBTIQ people. education and health. It is simply unacceptable that any salvage money can be used to support Fidesz’s strategy to dismantle the rule of law and fundamental rights.
Concerns over the misuse of the massive EU stimulus fund were a bitter point during marathon negotiations between EU leaders to agree on the money a year ago.
The concerns are not limited to Hungary. The new EU Prosecutor General has called Slovenia a “huge risk” as it will start receiving recovery funds from the EU without having appointed a national prosecutor to investigate cases of suspected fraud against the EU budget.
Laura Codruța Kövesi, Head of the New European Public Prosecutor’s Office, said Politics there had been “a manifest lack of sincere cooperation” on the part of the Slovenian authorities which “will greatly influence the effectiveness” of his organization. The European Public Prosecutor’s Office, the EU’s first body to handle criminal prosecutions, is responsible for investigating corruption and suspected fraud of EU funds.
But not all member states signed, with Hungary a notable absentee. Slovenia, which has just started six months in charge of the rotating EU presidency, has joined the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, but has not appointed a national prosecutor to work for the body as required.