Budapest, May 9 (MTI) – Norway has decided to suspend further disbursements of funds to Hungary under the EEA and Norway Grants scheme, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said on its website today.
The website of the Norwegian embassy in Budapest said, however, that the current suspension of disbursement of funds does not affect continued operation of programmes that are supervised directly by the Brussels-based Financial Mechanism Office. These are the NGO Fund and the Adaptation to Climate Change programme, the website added. According to the embassy website, the “decision is not linked to the recent exchange of correspondence between State Secertary Janos Ader and Minister Vidar Helgesen.”
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said the reason for the decision is that the Hungarian government has “moved the implementation and monitoring of the Grants scheme out of the central government administration. This is in breach of the agreements that have been entered into,” the statement added. The ministry said Hungary has made a unilateral decision that resulted in a breach of contract and it entered force on January 1.
“Hungary’s actions in this matter are unacceptable. Unfortunately, the Hungarian Government has shown little willingness to find solutions that comply with the agreements Hungary has entered into. We have therefore decided to suspend payments until this matter has been resolved,’ said Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Vidar Helgesen.
“The Hungarian Government is well aware of the requirements stipulated by the donor countries. The monitoring and implementation tasks in connection with the programmes and funds under the EEA and Norway Grants scheme must be transferred back to the central government administration in Hungary, in line with the practice used in all the other beneficiary countries.”
The ministry said EEA and Norway Grants are a contribution on the part of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein to reducing social and economic disparities in the EEA. Norway contributes around 97 percent of the funding provided under the scheme, it added.
According to the statement, Hungary is a relatively large recipient of EEA and Norway Grants. For the current period, 153.3 million euros have been allocated (approximately NOK 1.3 billion). Almost 12 million euros of this amount have already been paid out, it added.
Deputy state secretary for development policy communication Nandor Csepreghy told MTI that Hungary will be able to provide appropriate guarantees during the talks of the coming weeks that the funds under the EEA and Norway Grants scheme now suspended are used for genuine purposes. Hungary has asked Norway to extend the suspension over the three funds disbursing monies allocated to civil organisations and to renegotiate the entire programme structure of the scheme. Csepreghy said the consultations are under way and a solution on the matter could be reached in 4-6 weeks.
Janos Lazar, head of the Prime Minister’s Office said last month that “billions of forints” from the Norwegian Civil Fund are managed by an “organisation closely associated with a Hungarian political party”, referring to green opposition party LMP. The party later denied having links with the organisation Okotars Foundation.
In his statement, Csepreghy also referred to Okotars as the “satellite organisation” to LMP.
Tibor Szanyi, who heads the main opposition Socialist party’s list for the European parliamentary elections, called on Prime Minister Viktor Orban to take action in protection of international grants helping Hungary. Szanyi said in a statement that Orban, in his capacity as prime minister, also had to bear responsibility for Lazar’s “greedy and power-hungry measures that hurt the country.” He added that currently Hungary does not receive any development funding from abroad. Szanyi asked Orban not give a key government position to a person who “beyond managing Fidesz’s shady dealings, is also a master of getting European funds to Hungary frozen.”
LMP said in a statement that the government was punishing Hungary by getting funding cut. The supervision of the utilisation of funds has been reorganised in order to make the system non-transparent, the party said. “Fidesz oligarchs want to get their hands on support received from abroad,” the statement by LMP co-leader Bernadett Szel added. She said it was also appalling that Csepreghy asked for the suspension of funding to NGOs.
“This shows that the government’s position is that if they cannot get their hands on monies arriving in Hungary, then nobody else should; if those standing close to the government cannot increase their wealth, then the whole of Hungary should pay for it.”