GRECO Is Unsatisified with the Govt’s Anti-Corruption Measures
Ábrahám Vass 2019.08.02.
The Hungarian government finally authorized the publication of three reports of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) that deal with the government’s handling of corruption. In general, GRECO is still dissatisified with the government’s efforts and claim that, in total, it has only complied with five out of the eighteen recommendations in a satisfactory manner.
GRECO can only publish reports if the affected government agrees. The Hungarian government, however, similarly to Belarus, thus far blocked these reports. Two of those now published were prepared in 2017 and one in December 2018. The full reports are available here, here and here.
MPs asset declaration duties should be stricter
In connection with the corruption prevention in respect of members of parliament, the report criticizes the lack of implementation of greater transparency and consultation in the legislative process.
Asset declarations are also a point of criticism. The report says that instead of declaring assets only once a year, MPs should declare immediately every significant change in their financial situation, a valuable gift, for example. In addition, there should be clearer and more severe consequences if someone violates the asset declaration rules.
MPs’ broad immunity should also be reviewed. Just like the implementation of an appropriate monitoring system, and the adoption of a code of conduct.
The GRECO report also finds the influence of the National Judiciary Office (OBH) and its head Tünde Handó problematic, also their conflict with the National Judicial Council (OBT), an organisation in charge with (supposed/formal) control over Handó and OBH. According to the report, Handó’s broad power regarding the appointment of judges and court leaders should be reviewed and the OBT should be given more say in the process. The report also highlights the pressure on OBT members and specifically calls on the Hungarian authorities to do more to ensure the independence of the judiciary.
GRECO also considers the potential re-election of the Prosecutor General problematic, as it requires a two-thirds majority, and the leader’s mandate is automatically extended until his successor is elected by a two-thirds majority.
Party funding should be more transparent
In connection with the transparency of party funding, the report concluded that while party funding had become more transparent as the authorities had taken steps to ensure records are transparent and up-to-date, the “overall situation” remained unchanged, “the overall picture is disappointing”. In this matter, GRECO has long recommended that party finances should be more transparent, accessible to everyone on the accounting level.
Commenting on the report Miklós Ligeti, legal director of Transparency International claimed that “the Hungarian government still refuses to respond to GRECO’s recommendations in a meaningful way, and by blocking the reports it has, for years, covered up the country’s shamefully weak performance in dealing with corruption”.
Government sees otherwise
According to the reaction posted on the official site kormany.hu, “the government considers it an important achievement that Hungary has implemented those recommendations of the reports that address a real problem”. In addition, “Hungary, with the measures it has already taken, is in the frontline of international comparisons: it has complied with all the recommendations dealing with criminally punishable acts of corruption and has overtaken many EU Member states in other areas of recommendations too.”
While the government is apparently satisfied, Handó’s OBH criticized GRECO and the report. In a statement posted to their website, they claim that during its official visit, GRECO had only made theoretical remarks on the legal background of the courts’ work and had not criticised judicial practices.
In addition, the office said that Handó had never reassigned a judge without the judge’s consent and had not abused her powers in reviewing applications. Certain statements of the GRECO report were theoretical, the statement said, citing GRECO’s concern over “allegations of pressure on members of the NCJ [National Council of the Judiciary] and challenges that have reportedly been made to the legitimacy of the NCJ.”