Respect for the standards of rule of law is required for the proper spending of EU funds – this was the conclusion drawn by several speakers at an international conference organized by Transparency International Hungary (TI) in Budapest.
Held on the occasion of International Anti-Corruption Day, participants of the “Átláccó” Festival also noted that a crisis of rule of law is starting to form in the European Union.
According to a report by TI, the rule of law and exposure to corruption risks go hand in hand. In recent years, Hungary has seen a deterioration of rule of law and democratic norms, which is in close connection to corruption becoming systemic in the country. “Hungary is one of the biggest beneficiaries of EU funds, with around EUR 25 billion coming to the country in the current budget cycle. These funds are often distributed in a partial manner, most projects are overpriced and the funds are frequently wasted on unjustified objectives,” said József Péter Martin, the executive director of TI Hungary, in his opening address.
The European Commission is watching
Corruption can have a negative influence on the business environment and the distribution of goods; it leads to significant social costs and thus eventually diminishes the well-being of citizens. “The European Commission is monitoring how member states combat corruption and the measures they take,” said Gábor Zupkó, the head of the Representation of the European Commission in Hungary, in his address to the conference. The Commission also treats corruption as a priority within the European Semester, which provides a framework for a coordination of economic policies, and it formulates proposals toward member states. “It is not only public procurements and public administration which are at-risk areas, but health care and economic life may be affected as well,” added the head of representation.
Addressing the conference, Éric Fournier, the French ambassador to Hungary, declared: “The embezzlement of part of the EU structural funds is irresponsible, if not criminal. The EU should put an end to those irregularities which are nothing less than the theft of the European taxpayers’ money.”
The event also included the prize-giving ceremony of the poster competition entitled 'For me, the EU … Supermarket or community of common destiny?' that received no less than 85 submitted works. The six-member jury – which, in addition to well-known artists and advertising experts, included René van Hell, the Dutch ambassador to Budapest, and Péter Szigeti, editor-in-chief of 24.hu – evaluating the submissions awarded the HUF 300,000 first prize to Lívia Benkõ and Csaba Hollós. The audience award went to Gyõzõ Horváth, totaling HUF 100,000 in prize money. Closing the event was TI’s traditional end-of-year reception, which was attended by numerous public figures both from Hungary and abroad.