In a joint report titled “Half-Hearted Promises, Disappointing Delivery,” K-Monitor, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, and Transparency International Hungary gave a negative assessment of the anti-corruption laws passed by the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition in Parliament a few days ago. In a statement sent to Magyar Hang, the three prominent NGOs found it regrettable that, despite the government’s promise to the European Union, the legislation was created without any public consultation or published impact assessments.
And yet, they believe that this package of laws is “the most significant, and indeed the only series of anti-corruption legislative actions by the government that can be taken seriously” over the past twelve years. However, they also point out that this legislation was not undertaken voluntarily, but took place under pressure from the European Commission, which has tied the disbursement of EU funding to correcting Hungary’s rule of law violations.
The study evaluates the authority of the Integrity Authority as a step forward, according to which it can suspend public procurement procedures, as well as initiate so-called negligence lawsuits against state offices that do not excel in the performance of their duties.
It is not known, however, “whether the Integrity Authority will be truly independent; the management appointments will only be public in a few weeks. But even if the Integrity Authority becomes independent, the political potentates appointed to head the other state bodies will remain in place and will hardly go against the interests of the System of National Cooperation (NER). So for Hungary, we can still talk about there being a captive state.” Another limitation is that the Integrity Authority can only request, but not oblige, state bodies to perform their otherwise legally-prescribed duties.
The report also notes that ending the absolute monopoly of the prosecutor’s office on bringing charges in corruption cases is an important development. But it felt that in addition to private and legal persons as well as civil organizations, the new Integrity Authority should have been given the power to take cases directly to court if the prosecutor’s office does not initiate proceedings or terminates the investigation.
In summary, the three NGOs were “confident that necessary amendments to the laws will be possible as a result of the ongoing negotiations between the European Commission and the Hungarian government.” [Magyar Hang]