Hungary Passes Transparency Bills.

Last week, Hungary’s government passed the first two of 17 anti-corruption legislation bills, in a bid to avoid losing €7.5bn in financing from the EU.

This comes after the condemnation by the European Parliament last month that Hungary is no longer a “full democracy” because of the “deliberate and systematic efforts of the Hungarian government” to undermine European values as enshrined in Article 2 TEU.

The European Parliament first triggered an Article 7 procedure against the Hungarian government back in 2018, with concerns on a range of issues from the functioning of Hungary’s constitutional and electoral system, the independence of the judiciary, corruption and conflicts of interest and privacy & data protection through to a range of social and religious freedoms, yet the situation that has worsened substantially since 2018.

The Independent Corruption Research Center Budapest reports that only one bidder per contract is becoming more common, and that the companies that win bids are usually owned by people with good relationships with Orbán. Investigative journalise András DecsöIt has been also raising raising awareness of public tenders for major projects that appear to be conducted purely for show.

The first bill of the two bills passed allows for complaints to be filed in court that can open corruption investigations. The second bill requires a period of public consultation prior to the adoption of a law.

Commitments yet to be passed include the establishment of a fully independent Integrity Authority whose objective is the prevention, detection and correction of fraud, conflicts of interest and corruption,. Under this new authority, contracting authorities can suspend a procurement procedure or request probes into process.

The government also proposes to set up an Anti-Corruption Task Force which will propose measures aimed at improving corruption prevention and detection. The chair of the Integrity Authority will also be the chair of the Task Force. In addition, the Government has proposed legislation to ensure that public procurement rules apply to public interest asset management foundations.

It is not clear when these remaining commitments will be passed into law by the Hungarian Government, nor is it clear if and how the European Parliament plan to monitor the new frameworks and institutions, or if they plan to impose sanctions if faced with further delay or inaction.

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