The ruling parties failed to show up at the meeting of the Parliament’s Committee on National Security which would have dealt with the national security features of government commissioner Attila Sztojka’s controversial statements, and of the corruption case of deputy justice minister Pál Völner. Fidesz-KDNP is trying to evade responsibility, according to the opposition politicians.
Former state secretary Pál Völner was accused of bribery roughly a month ago. The opposition members of the committee wished to hear both the Constitution Protection Office (AH) and the Central Chief Prosecution Office of Investigation (KNYF) who were in charge of the national security clearance of the Fidesz politician.
Actually, the Völner case has other relevance in regard to national security. In response to questions posed after the Pegasus case had been brought to light, Justice Minister Judit Varga (Völner’s superior) claimed that it was his duty to approve the surveillance initiatives of the relevant authoritative bodies.
In the other case involving leaked recordings, government commissioner for Roma relations Attila Sztojka’s words can be understood as that the Fidesz government expects loyalty from certain Roma politicians in exchange for certain benefits. He also underscored multiple times that as an official of the Interior Ministry (BM), he “knows everything about everyone.” The opposition lawmakers wanted to hear the Interior Ministry and the aforementioned AH to reveal certain aspects of the case.
It was the Committee’s Jobbik-delegated president János Stummer who had initiated the meeting last week. However, similar to several previous cases, Fidesz-KDNP chose to boycott the session altogether, which then lacked a quorum, as they have a majority in the body. This meant that despite the Constitution Protection Office and Central Chief Prosecution Office of Investigation (KNYF) having been present, they couldn’t be heard.
Opposition: Fidesz-KDNP evading responsibility
At a joint press conference, Stummer, Socialist (MSZP) Zsolt Molnár and LMP’s Péter Ungár commented that they were “not surprised” by the absence of the ruling parties. According to the Jobbik lawmaker:
“The governing parties are doing their best (…) to dodge matters one way or another that are inconvenient for them.”
“This is what happened both in 2014 and 2018. In the campaign, Fidesz-KDNP MPs are evading responsibility. They hide, sabotage, and boycott,” MSZP’s Molnár explained, adding that they also wanted to ask questions about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which would have been important regarding the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia.
Concerning the footage involving Sztojka, Ungár said that the case raised the question of whether the interior ministry’s practice of collecting information was legitimate and “the information is being used for party political purposes”. He added that the earlier Pegasus spy software scandal had raised “the same suspicion”.
Opposition promises reforms
The national security committee has in recent years “lost its actual oversight” such as over the secret services, due to “persistent actions of sabotage” by the ruling parties, Stummer said. He vowed to restore those controls if they won the next election in April. He also called for an institutional reform of counter-terrorism force TEK, including amendments to the law that governs its operations.
Molnár said the practice of classifying information had become “uninhibited”, and broadening the range of information classified as confidential was unjustified. He pledged to review that practice and reconsider the classification of earlier purchases and other cases.
Referring to the Pegasus case, Molnár said that licencing secret data collection was governed by ill-defined legislation, which offered opportunities for abuse, adding that the opposition would review those rules.
Ungár said that it was a priority to ensure salaries for the secret services “that are competitive; in the region at least”.
He also said that his party would again propose publication of the files of informers in Hungary’s communist past, adding that once those documents were public “a politician could no longer be blackmailed on the grounds that he had reported on another person”.
featured image: Ungár, Stummer (speaking) and Molnár at the press conference; via Facebook