On Tuesday, the Group of States against Corruption (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.
In 2018, GRECO called attention to Hungary’s shortcomings in the fight against corruption. At the moment, 16 member states, including Hungary, are under investigation for not implementing the changes to their justice system that were suggested in the previous years’ reports. Moreover, according to Index, Hungary has refused to agree to the report coming to light since 2017. Hungary is not alone in this, though. Austria, Moldova, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Belarus also oppose publishing the report about them.
GRECO already stated numerous times in 2017 and 2018 that what Hungary does to stop corruption is not enough. In March, they sent a group of experts to Budapest to give advice specific to Hungary on legislation and governmental measures.
Criticism on Hungary
GRECO wants Hungary to be more transparent about the process of law-making and provide more opportunities for consultation. Moreover, Hungary is advised to implement a stricter code of ethics that could prevent politicians from acting in a corrupt manner while also preventing lobbyists of the business sector from influencing decisions.
However, GRECO’s biggest problem with Hungary is how much power the National Office for the Judiciary (OBH) has, and how corrupt the courts and the appointment of judges are in Hungary.
Therefore, they advise implementing laws and regulations that protect judges and prosecutors, thus ensuring their immunity and independence.
How GRECO works
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 significance of the contents
The last report that is accessible regarding Hungary is from 2015. According to that, significant changes still need to be made in the prosecution, which is the cornerstone of the fight against corruption. It stated the significance of an independent prosecution that is free of inappropriate influences, and accordingly, that has a clean image as well. To ensure this, greater transparency is needed.
They expressed their disapproval of the current system in which a two-thirds majority is required to appoint a new public prosecutor, which gives cause for concern regarding impartiality.
Some sources say the country prohibits the publication of the report as the European Commission could use the information revealed in it to withdraw funding from corrupt countries. However, it would be important to learn what the report contains not least because the Sargentini report lists GRECO’s findings as their source for the accusations against Hungary regarding corruption.