The European Commission interrupted the equivalent of 451 million euros in payments for Hungarian projects last September after an audit in May of the same year revealed “systemic weaknesses in the project selection system”, Jakub Adamowicz, the EC’s spokesman for regional policy, said in Brussels. The payments were suspended on April 10 this year after the Hungarian authorities failed to take corrective measures, he said. “Now it’s up to the Hungarian authorities to respond and to take corrective action.” Adamowicz said there was no penalty involved in the matter, only interruptions and suspensions, which were part of normal procedure.
Deputy state secretary Nándor Csepreghy said earlier that the EC had suspended 700 billion forints (EUR 2.3bn) worth of European Union funding after it found fault with the selection process during the 2007-2013 budget cycle. Hungary’s dispute with the EC on the matter is of a “technical” nature, Csepreghy said, adding that the cabinet is weighing possible solutions. In response to a question during a weekly government briefing on Thursday, cabinet chief János Lázár said that the government would consider the Commission’s recommendations in connection with six projects it has criticised out of 42,000 altogether. Lázár noted that the net value of the three suspended programme parts is 150 billion forints (EUR 500m), which is the part that has not yet been transferred out of the 700 billion forints allocation.
The opposition Együtt (Together) party called on Csepreghy to resign over the funding freeze, saying that based on a copy of the EU report posted, the ruling Fidesz party and the Orbán government had lied about the report which pointed to excessive pricing and irregular projects dating later than 2012. Együtt insisted the suspension of funds was the government and the ruling party’s sole responsibility.
The left-wing opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) also blamed the Orbán government for the freeze, insisting that calls for tenders were systematically designed to suit a specific, Fidesz-friendly company. Csepreghy’s suggestion that the former governments of Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai were also involved was “a de facto lie,” DK deputy chair László Varju said.
The radical nationalist Jobbik party called for changes in the public procurement system in response to the fund freeze. Dániel Z Kárpát, the party’s deputy parliamentary group leader, said all procedures lacking a public proposal should be banned and an expert body reporting to parliament should be set up to monitor high-profile projects in order to avoid suspicions of cartel activity. A pricing system could also be set up which would fix prices at realistic market rates, he said. He noted that Jobbik had submitted proposals to this end to parliament but all of them were swept off the table.
via hungarymatters.hu photo: public domain