Weekly newsletter

In a recently-leaked voice recording, government commissioner for Roma relations Attila Sztojka can be heard offering working contracts for Roma representatives who “are in the circle” in exchange for political and professional performance. He also says that as an official of the Interior Ministry, he “knows a lot of things about everyone.” The recording instantly led to outrage, and a police report has also been filed as he supposedly tried to bribe Roma officials in exchange for their political support.

The audio recording, secretly recorded in a Budapest hotel at the end of December last year, was obtained by left-wing daily Népszava. The meeting was attended by Attila Sztojka and some members of the National Roma Self-Government (ORÖ), Lungo Drom representatives, and their allies. Lungo Drom is long known to be a “strategic ally” of ruling Fidesz.

Sztojka first sharply criticized ORÖ president János Agócs who, in his view, endangers the image and the operation of the body, and is leading ORÖ into bankruptcy. Népszava notes that Agócs’s role’s importance lies in the fact that previously he had made it clear that he wouldn’t be satisfied with an advocate role, but that he would like to become an MP with the right to vote. However, ORÖ representatives voted in vain for Agócs to replace his rival, Félix Farkas, a known pro-government politician, as the Top Court later annulled the results. Anyhow, the balance of power has since changed within ORÖ, with Fidesz-ally Lungo Drom and its supporters now reportedly having the upper hand in the national government. This is certainly an important question as the elections approach, and the fate of a mandate may eventually be crucial in terms of the final outcome.

“This advocate election needs to be finished,” he concluded.

Later, Sztojka promised employment contracts and subsidies to the participants who “are in this circle.” “The goal isn’t for you to get a bad deal. So far, I don’t think anyone’s participation in this circle has been to their detriment,” he says, adding that “I will bring more opportunities, have no doubt about that”.  He also explained that “don’t misunderstand me, this is not a buyout, I’m not trying to buy anyone.”

Sztojka, who is also the director of the Directorate-General for the Creation of Societal Opportunities (TEF) which belongs under the Interior Ministry (BM), also makes it clear that he expects political and professional performance in return, although he didn’t go into details regarding these two conditions.

At the end, he also implicitly threatens his audience by saying that as an official in the Interior Ministry, he knows “a lot of thing about everyone.” “I know when who spoke with whom and how,” he explains.

Fact

This is not the first scandal of Lungo Drom. Its leader, Flórián Farkas, has been accused multiple times of fraud and corruption. In one of the latest cases, the party’s “Bridge to the World of Work” received some HUF 1.6 billion (EUR 4.4 million), but according to the report of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), it has essentially never worked and has not even partially reached its set goals. This was eventually upheld by the Ministry of Human Capacities too, and an investigation has been kick-started, but Flórián Farkas is not one of the defendants.

Up until now, Sztojka, the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister, the Interior Ministry and the PM’s Press Chief have all refused to comment on the matter, according to Telex.

ORÖ president Agócs: a reasonable suspicion of criminal offence

In reaction to the news, ORÖ convened an extraordinary session on Wednesday, which was cut short. After hearing the content of the recording, ORÖ president Agócs commented that he had no doubt about the authenticity of the recording and said that he was aware that there had been several meetings between Sztojka and ORÖ’s certain representatives. “There is a reasonable suspicion of criminal offence committed” he also explained about Sztojka’s words.

On the other hand, Lungo Drom-backed parliamentary spokesman Félix Farkas refused to comment on the case for the press, unlike Lungo Drom’s group leader János Csóka, who chose to criticize those who made the recording.

Opposition: Outrage and a police report

Independent MP Ákos Hadházy has announced to file a police report. He recalls that in the aforementioned “Bridge to the World of Work” case, aforementioned Flórián Farkas was similarly proved to have promised employment contracts. This just adds to another case when someone similarly did so in the name of Farkas.

“What Fidesz calls Roma policy is the most disgusting vileness,”

Hadházy concluded who wasn’t the only one to be outraged by the recording. Democratic Coalition (DK) has called for an investigation and accountability, saying that it was unacceptable that a government commissioner would try to bribe Roma representatives, while also making vile threats.

In addition, the Socialists (MSZP) called on Sztojka to resign from all government positions.

featured image: Attila Sztojka speaking at Fidesz’s congress in 2021; via Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI