Tibor Navracsics – Photo: Flickr

Navracsics: EC’s decision paves way for swift conclusion of talks on funds

Tibor Navracsics, the minister in charge of the uptake of European Union funds, on Sunday welcomed as "progress" the European Commission's decision on EU funds allocated to Hungary, saying it would allow for a swift conclusion of the talks on the post-pandemic recovery fund and cohesion monies.

Navracsics told a press conference that the government was hopeful that negotiations could be concluded by the end of the year.

Because the government intends to fulfil the commitments it made during the procedure regarding the conditionality mechanism linking EU funding to the rule of law, the sanctions proposed by the commission “are of secondary importance”, as “their approval cannot happen”, Navracsics said.

He said the EC’s Sunday decision marked the end of the months-long talks on the conditionality mechanism procedure, which meant that no further criteria could be set for Hungary. Talks will, however, continue on the implementation of the measures Hungary has committed to, the minister said, noting that he will next meet with European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn on Wednesday.

Navracsics noted that the government will submit the related legislative proposals to parliament on Monday and Friday.

Detailing the government’s commitments made to the EC, Navracsics mentioned the establishment of an anti-fraud “integrity authority” to oversee public procurement procedures using EU funds. Its head will be chosen by independent experts through an open application process, he said, adding that the authority could begin its work in the second half of November.

Hungary has also promised to set up an anti-corruption working group that will be independent of the government and will be tied to the integrity authority, he said.

The government will further strengthen anti-corruption systems, he said, noting changes to be made to the asset declaration system.

Rules on conflicts of interest when it comes to foundations managing assets of public interest will also be tightened and be based on EU regulations, Navracsics said.

Hungary’s commitments, he noted, also include ensuring legal remedy against the prosecutor’s decisions in corruption cases.

Navracsics said Hungary had begun implementing its remedial measures as early as last month in the interest of speeding up the process. He said that though there had been some distrust between Hungary and the commission at the early stages of the talks, cooperation between them had been normalised by the end of the process.

Navracsics said he believed it was possible that the EC itself would be the one to announce that Hungary had fulfilled its commitments, and move to end the conditionality procedure.

The European Commission on Sunday proposed suspending a part of the EU funds allocated to Hungary over concerns about their mismanagement.

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