Hungary has complied with several of the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body GRECO, and has taken measures regarding the transparency of party funding and disciplinary actions against prosecutors, among others, the body said on Thursday.
GRECO, with the authorisation of Hungarian authorities, on Thursday published on its website three reports on the country’s compliance with its recommendations to prevent corruption. Two of the reports were prepared in 2017 and one in December 2018.
GRECO has made 18 recommendations to combat corruption in Hungary, the body said. Of those, the country has complied with only five in a satisfactory manner, it said.
Regarding the disciplinary procedure against prosecutors, GRECO said that despite the steps taken, Hungary still failed to conduct those procedures through an official hierarchy.
The election procedure of the public prosecutor was also in need of reform, GRECO said, adding the same was true when it came to the immunity of prosecutors, which the body said was too far-reaching.
The report said party funding had become more transparent as the authorities had taken steps to ensure records are transparent and up-to-date. However, the “overall situation” on party funding remained unchanged, it said.
In the report “Corruption prevention in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors”, GRECO called on the Hungarian authorities to ensure transparent legislative procedures, including interactions with lobbyists.
Authorities should also implement a code of conduct for lawmakers, especially in cases of conflict of interest and create a unified form of asset declarations, as well as a system for implementing these regulations, the report said.
Regarding the situation of judges, the report expressed concern in connection with the powers of the President of the National Judicial Office in the process of appointing candidates for judicial positions and reassigning judges. GRECO “implores” the authorities to address these issues as a matter of priority, “to better protect the independence of the judiciary in Hungary,” the 2018 report said.
As we wrote before, GRECO published their annual report on European countries. However, they pointed out that the Hungarian government prohibits the publication of the international report for the third year in a row, since 2017. Read details HERE.
Regarding the situation of judges, the report expressed concern in connection with the powers of the President of the National Judicial Office (OBH) in the process of appointing candidates for judicial positions and reassigning judges. GRECO “implores” the authorities to address these issues as a matter of priority, “to better protect the independence of the judiciary in Hungary,” the 2018 report said.
Commenting on the report, the Hungarian Judiciary Office (OBH) said in a statement on its website that during its official visit to Hungary, GRECO had only made theoretical remarks on the legal background of the courts’ work and had not criticised judicial practices.
The report would drastically curb judges’ immunity, essentially limiting it to the courtroom, OBH said. Immunity is “one of the cornerstones of judicial integrity and independence, and limiting it would be dangerous and harmful,” it said.
Regarding the powers of the OBH head, Tunde Hando, the office said Hando had never reassigned a judge without the judge’s consent and had not abused her powers in reviewing applications. Certain statements of the GRECO report were theoretical, the statement said, citing GRECO’s concern over “allegations of pressure on members of the NCJ [National Council of the Judiciary] and challenges that have reportedly been made to the legitimacy of the NCJ.”