The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), in a report published today, calls for determined measures to prevent corruption in Hungary in respect of persons with top executive functions, including the Prime Minister, ministers, commissioners, political state secretaries, political advisers, the Prime Minister’s agents, as well as members of the Hungarian National Police and of the National Protective Service (NPS). (see also report in French and Hungarian: unofficial translations as provided by the authorities of Hungary).
In its evaluation report, GRECO notes that a common and general feature of public administration and law enforcement agencies in Hungary is that most integrity and corruption prevention measures target low and mid-level officials. The integrity framework applicable to persons with top executive functions is very weak and the conditions for the appointment of senior managers in the Police and the NPS carry risks of politicisation.
GRECO notes that persons with top executive functions are not subject to a code of conduct, to awareness-raising and confidential counselling on integrity, to rules on lobbying or the acceptance of gifts and invitations, nor to rules on post-employment restrictions. The anti-corruption strategies and action plans do not cover these persons. Their assets declarations are not filed in electronic format, which greatly limits their exploitability. Only declarations by senior political leaders are public and the verification of declarations is clearly insufficient. GRECO calls for all these gaps to be addressed as a matter of priority.
GRECO also notes a lack of transparency around the composition of ministerial cabinets and the role and remuneration of their members, the agendas and meetings of ministers and political advisers, the employment of the Prime Minister’s agents, persons with top executive functions’ salary system as well as more generally, increasing difficulties in accessing public information and exercising public participation in the legislative process. Recent constitutional amendments relating to the delegation of legislative powers in situations of emergency also require caution, as they shift power from the oversight role of the legislature to the executive.
As regards law enforcement authorities, GRECO recommends several measures to increase transparency and avoid undue influence, including as regards the selection and appointment of the National Police Commissioner and the Director General of the NPS and of managers within these institutions, instructions by the Minister of Interior in individual cases, as well as donations to the Police and the NPS.
To strengthen integrity, the Code of Ethics for Law Enforcement needs to be further elaborated and complemented by a confidential counselling mechanism, a clear requirement for police staff to report integrity-related misconduct must be established, the disciplinary regime of the Police and the NPS needs reviewing and the protection of whistleblowers within these institutions must be strengthened. Finally, GRECO recommends that measures be taken to increase the representation of women at all levels of the Police and the NPS.
The implementation of the recommendations addressed to Hungary will be assessed by GRECO in 2024 through its compliance procedure.
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