Today, MEPs heard Commissioner Gentiloni on the national recovery plans still awaiting approval. The debate quickly revolved around Viktor Orbán's €7.2 billion plan and the massive risks of corruption that comes with it.
The Recovery and Resilience Facility regulation (or ‘RRF’) contains a list of criteria a national plan must meet for the recovery money to be released. The existence of solid anti-corruption and anti-fraud mechanisms is among them.
Luis Garicano, one of the EP RRF negotiators and the author of the anti-corruption amendment, reminded the Commissioner : “The anti-corruption criteria is among the toughest criteria there is. It is pass-or-fail criteria. It’s yes or no. Either you have a solid anti-corruption mechanisms or you don’t. There is no middle ground here.”
He went on to warn him: “If you give a “pass mark ” on corruption to Orbán’s regime, you’ll go against the body of evidence your services accumulated over the years”.
Earlier this year, the Commission said corruption in Hungary was “systemic”. In recent years, Hungary tops the OLAF’s list of Member States where the most irregularities involving EU funds have been found. Last week, anti-corruption NGOs wrote to Commissioner Gentiloni to ask him to delay the approval of the plan until concrete measures are put in place.
Valérie Hayer, member of the Parliament's RRF working group, recalled that EU sanctions work. "Take Poland. In this country there are still LGBTI free zones in which people are discriminated against because of who they are. But those free-zones are progressively being taken down thanks to the threat of EU sanctions. Our budget gives us formidable leverage. We must use it."
On June 27, Renew Europe sent a letter asking for the Commission to delay the adoption of the Hungarian plan until several conditions are met including:
- granting the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) access to the list of final beneficiaries of the RFF money;
- prevent persons and entities with a record of serious financial irregularities or conflicts of interest should be denied from receiving RRF funds;
- repeal laws obstructing investigative journalists and civil society organisations from accessing public information.
Since the Renew Europe letter, the Commission delayed the adoption of the plan twice. The money has been withheld ever since.