Brussels, April 28 (MTI) – The European Commission wants Hungary to address concerns over its reform of the way it uses European Union funding, an EU spokesman said today.
Shirin Wheeler, spokeswoman for the regional policy commissioner, Johannes Hahn, told MTI that the commission had sent a letter to the Hungarian government on April 16, raising concerns about the transformation of the funding system and the effective operation of the management and control system. It has therefore asked for detailed information from the Hungarian authorities, she added.
At the same time, Wheeler said the commission had not suspended payments to Hungary.
“We have not interrupted payments,” she said, but referred to “some fairly fundamental changes in the management system of the Cohesion Policy funds, namely a reorganisation at the National Development Agency and the integration of intermediary bodies dealing with the EU funds” and added that the commission needed to be sure that the management and control system for the EU investments are working properly and that the administrative capacity to deal with the investments is sufficient.
“This is to ensure there is no risk to the funds, and the financial interests of taxpayers. But most importantly so that Hungarian citizens will benefit fully from their efficient and correct use,” she said, adding that the commission was awaiting the Hungarian response on the question of future payment claims.
Earlier on Monday, the spokesman of ruling Fidesz said it was “conceivable” that the European Commission may temporarily suspend the payment of EU funds.
But allocations would be guaranteed from Hungary’s central budget to the recipients entitled to receive funding, said Robert Zsigo.
He said that the European Commission had asked for a change to the tender system, and the Hungarian government has started to work on this in cooperation with the commission.
Nandor Csepreghy, deputy state secretary in charge of development policy communications at the Prime Minister’s Office, told a press conference that the EC’s assessment of Hungary’s development policy institutions does not affect the payment of EU funding for the 2007-2013 period, nor for the currently starting 2014-2020 period. The commission has only asked Hungary not to send invoices for the period after April 15 until the assessment is completed, he added. Csepreghy said the EC assessment is expected to be completed by the end of June.
Socialist lawmaker Tibor Szanyi called on Janos Lazar of ruling Fidesz, who oversees the drawing of EU funds to resign over the “suspension of funds”.
Gordon Bajnai, the leader of the E-PM opposition alliance, said that with the reorganisation of Hungary’s development institutions the government seeks “to loot EU funds” behind the backs of voters.
He called on the government “to immediately stop the destruction” and secure funds Hungary is entitled to receive. He also demanded reinstating the previous funding system and to make transparent the distribution of EU funds.