Transparency: Justice Minister's proposals insufficient for curbing corruption

July 21. 2022. – 08:03 AM

updated

The European Commission launched the Rule of Law procedure against Hungary at the end of April. At the end of June, the Hungarian government addressed EU concerns about the public procurement system, the independence of the investigating and prosecuting authorities, the fight against corruption and agricultural subsidies in a letter sent to the Commission. This week, Justice Minister Judit Varga submitted two bill proposals (which were, of course accepted) to the Hungarian Parliament.

The agreement with the European Commission is within reach, as the Ministry of Justice submitted two bill proposals to Parliament that will help reach an agreement as soon as possible, Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga wrote in her Facebook post on Tuesday.

The minister added that “the technical discussions with the European Commission have brought an agreement on the mobilisation of the Recovery Fund within reach. There is now a very good chance of the RRF funds being mobilised in the second half of the year.”

By adopting the European Commission's recommendations, the Hungarian government is committing itself to allow time for public consultation before legislation is passed, and to ensure that in corruption-related criminal cases there is also a right of judicial appeal against the decision of the prosecutor's office to close an investigation. According to Varga, the government is "committed to a straightforward and frank professional dialogue based on mutual respect."

Transparency International Hungary commented on the two proposals intended to curb corruption put forward by Minister Varga: ”While we do not want it to appear as if nothing is good enough for Transparency International Hungary, it is important to point out that even taken together, the measures decided on by the government will not be sufficient to curb systemic corruption. Indeed, government experts and representatives of NGOs meeting to discuss effective means of fighting corruption will not decrease the number of overpriced public contracts."

The NGO also added that the laws which have just been passed may not have an impact, as "any legislation is only as good as what can be enforced in practice".

According to the two bills in question:

  • At least 90 percent of legislation is to be adopted after public consultation,
  • and private citizens will be able to lodge complaints in court in cases of suspected corruption where the prosecutor's office has dropped the charges.

The former promise is all the more interesting, since the recently adopted amendment to the taxing law was adopted without public consultation, just like several other major changes in recent times. This is the law which affects at least 300 000 sole proprietors and small business owners and their families, and the adoption of which set off a wave of street protests across Hungary.

The latter promise has been criticised by Transparency because organisations (such as the European Anti-Corruption Office or Transparency International) will still not be able to go to court in such cases.

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The translation of this article was made possible by our cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation.