Budapest, May 5 (MTI) – Transparency International Hungary organised an international conference on fighting corruption in Budapest on Friday.
TI Hungary CEO József Péter Martin said European Union member states should play leading roles in protecting the EU’s financial interests, but authorities are often slow to handle corruption cases and are not effective enough in cracking down on abuses of EU funds.
Citing a report by Europe’s anti-fraud office OLAF, Martin said irregularities surrounding EU finances had cost the bloc 3.2 billion euros in 2015. Hungary has received large amounts of EU funds over the past years, with 90 percent of public investment projects financed from EU money, he said, stressing the importance of the proper handling of EU funds.
He said cooperation between OLAF and Hungary “could be better”, adding that Hungarian authorities were not particularly effective at tackling corruption.
He said the establishment of a European prosecutor would go a long way toward increasing the effectiveness of the fight against corruption, but so far only 16 member states have declared their support for it.
Gábor Zupkó, head of the European Commission’s representation in Budapest, called corruption “one of the biggest societal challenges of our time” which harms both member states and the EU as a whole, while holding back economic growth and undermining trust in legitimate institutions. Corruption can be tackled with the passage of effective laws, but the real key to solving the problem is their implementation, he said.
OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler said the most worrying and dangerous trends concerning corruption were cross-border corruption and the fact that certain democracies were being governed in a way that made graft an integral part of how the country is run.
Concerning Hungary, Kessler urged greater transparency of the budget, adding that corruption ruined economic performance and undermines public trust.
He argued for the establishment of a European prosecutor, even if it would take over some of the responsibilities of OLAF.
The ruling Fidesz party said in a statement that Transparency International was part and parcel of the “corruption of [US financier] George Soros”.
“The Soros-funded organisation, his people in the Brussels commission and the opposition parties sat down together today … to put pressure on the Hungarian government,” the statement said. “They are using every topic and every means to put pressure on the Hungarian migration policy.” Fidesz finds it “outrageous” that Transparency speaks about transparency, and organises a conference on corruption, while refusing to answer a journalist’s question about how much foreign money it receives and the exact extent to which it is supported by George Soros, the statement added.