EU spending in Hungary needs review, say MEPs

Viktor Orbán rejected criticism of EU spending in Hungary © European People's Party
Viktor Orbán © European People's Party

The European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee has warned about potential misuse of funds and called for a review of EU spending in Hungary.

The group of MEPs has expressed concern that EU spending in Hungary is being misused, for example through being allocated to supporters, family and friends of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who are unfairly winning infrastructure contracts with little to no competition.

On a recent visit to the country, a delegation from the committee found that 36% of tenders for public projects had only one bidder, which indicates a lack of competition and alerted the group to potential corruption.

How widespread is the problem?

Hungary is currently set to receive €25bn between now and 2021. This will make the country one of the largest per-capita recipients of EU funds of all member states, but Ingeborg Grässle MEP, who leads the committee, warned that the problem is not limited to the country.

Grässle told the Guardian: “We see oligarchs in some member states becoming politicians and benefiting at the same time from EU and national money for their companies”. The committee found that in both Poland and Croatia, some 45% of public project tenders had only one bidder.

However, Grässle stressed that these countries seem to be respecting EU rules. For this reason, she has urged the European Commission to increase its oversight of EU spending in Hungary and other member states over which concerns have been raised. This may amount to new conflict of interest laws.

How did Hungary respond?

The Hungarian government said it welcomed an investigation into the legitimacy of street lighting contracts that were awarded to a company previously owned by Orbán’s son-in-law.

However, it objected to the accusation of corruption and said that the figures in the Budgetary Control Committee’s report were out of date. It also issued its own figures which listed the percentage of tenders with only one bidder at 26.3%, closer to that of other countries in the region.

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