After a long back-and-forth, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) could finally publish their report about the situation in Hungary. It reveals that according to the Council of Europe, Hungary only implemented five out of their eighteen suggestions. The two words that come up the most in the report are “disappointing” and “worrying.”
What GRECO found the most problematic in Hungary are the issue of judges’ independence, political party financing, as well as asset declarations and the incompatibility, reports HVG. The report was published at last on Thursday, but it has been ready since December of 2018. There is a reason the Hungarian government blocked its publication for eight months. The document suggests multiple times that
“the Hungarian government is not willing to cooperate at all, and they do not comply with the suggestions, either, even though there would be an immense need for that on the part of the members of parliament, the judges, as well as the prosecutors.”
The institution belongs to the Council of Europe and has 49 countries as members. These countries regularly assess one another’s performance in the fight against corruption. The group of experts assesses the situation in the member countries by visiting them, for example.
The plenary meeting decides about the report, which may also include suggestions to improve the legislation and legal practices of the country in question.
The country then reports back (this is the so-called compliance report) about the actions they took in response to the report. GRECO then either accepts the steps taken or partially or fully rejects them. The report is published only after this long process, at least in the countries where the government agrees to it.
The Hungarian government joined the organisation in 1999. However, since 2017, they refused to allow the report to reach the public. The rules of the organisation allow this decision, so, along with Hungary, Belarus also blocked the report’s publication.
Marin Mrcela, the head of the organisation, noted that the Hungarian government gave no explanation as to why they refused the publication.
“I do not think that is the sign of good intentions.”
The anti-corruption organisation visited Hungary in March, when they met Péter Polt, the Chief Prosecutor of Hungary, for instance. Now, the report has finally been published, although only together with the government’s response and their reflections.
One of the biggest findings of the report is that the fight against corruption in Hungary is not adequate, neither in the Parliament nor in the justice system. With regards to the members of parliament, judges, and prosecutors, the Hungarian government only applied five of their eighteen suggestions satisfactorily about preventing corruption from four years ago. The conclusion is that since Hungary did not make satisfactory changes, they still have to continue to take part in the proceedings.
The experts found it especially disappointing that in many cases, the Hungarian government only responded by saying “no progress was made,” even though some of the suggestions came in 2015. GRECO asks Hungarian authorities to take “definite steps” to improve the situation.
The following aspects are especially important according to GRECO (for the full report, click here):
- to improve the level of transparency and consultation in the legislative process (including the introduction of rules on interactions with lobbyists),
- to adopt a code of conduct for members of parliament (covering in particular various situations that could lead to a conflict of interest),
- to ensure a uniform format of asset declarations,
- to review the broad immunity enjoyed by MPs or to ensure the effective supervision and enforcement of rules of conduct.
It is also essential that all these aspects have a monitoring system.
The panel of experts also found the issue of judges’ impartiality problematic in Hungary, as well as how much power the Chief Prosecutor has – the situation may have even got worse. Therefore, the panel asks Hungary to dedicate urgent attention to these questions. Last but not least, the transparency of political party financing was also deemed “globally unsatisfactory.”