Budapest, May 12 (MTI) – The government is responsible for “cutting off” Hungary’s access to Norwegian funds, opposition officials insisted on Monday.
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry announced on Friday the suspension of funding under its Norway Grants scheme operating within the European Economic Area (EEA).
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 Norwegian ministry said, adding that Hungary had made a unilateral decision in breach of the contract.
“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.
In late April, the European Commission asked Hungary to address concerns over a new system for tapping European Union funding, highlighting the transformation of the funding system and the effective operation of the management and control system. It did not suspend actual funding, however.
Bernadett Szel, LMP’s co-leader, told a press conference that the government had committed an error rendering the entire funding application system dysfunctional. She insisted that the system had not been operating over the past six months, causing an economic loss for the country “since almost all development projects have been covered from EU funds,” she said.
Szel said she had submitted five questions to Janos Lazar, the head of the prime minister’s office, who she accused of wanting to exert total control over the entire funding process: how many application winners were negatively affected by the transformation of the funding system and the value of their loss; how much money has been earmarked by the cabinet to compensate for payments expected to be suspended; what measures are planned to keep the budget deficit below 3 percent if unplanned budget allocations are required to compensate for the payments; finally, what guarantees the government could give that the funding system’s transformation would not increase losses due to the possible corruption involved.
The opposition Socialist Party on Monday called on Prime Minister Viktor Orban to do everything possible to make sure that the EU and Norwegian funds unfreeze their funding. Bertalan Toth said the government had “put a time bomb underneath Hungary’s cash faucets” and “provoked both the EU and the Norway fund to suspend their payments.”