Brussels finds its own system of asset declarations unacceptable

Brussels bureaucrats have made a fool of themselves yet again. After Hungary adopted the EU's asset declaration scheme, the decision makers began urging a return to the former Hungarian rules, daily Magyar Nemzet writes.

POLITICS SEPTEMBER 30. 2022 15:41

Although the Hungarian parliament amended the system of asset declarations barely a few months ago, aligning it with the much simpler rules of the European Parliament (EP), Brussels now demands the reinstatement of the former system. In light of this, it is quite ironic that the EU’s liberal elite had criticized the Hungarian system for years, as

their present demand is basically a confession that they prefer Hungary’s much criticised asset declaration system, and that the practice used in the European Parliament is worse than the Hungarian,

Magyar Nemzet writes.

Ammunition to Sargentini

The most comprehensive document criticising the system – which also provided ammunition for the Sargentini report, designed to discredit Hungary – was written by the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body. In its 2015 report, GRECO criticised that the authorities were only checking the contents of declarations if they had received a substantiated report. It also remarked that the declarations of family members were not public, and the authority only launched an investigation if an MP was reported by someone. The body also complained that, on top of registering financial interests, the asset declarations did not examine “already essential relationships relevant to the conflict of interest.” The organisation, however, did not elaborate on what it meant by the latter. The Sargentini-report, among others, urged that the asset declarations “be published online”, although they are available on the parliament’s website.

In addition to Brussels bodies, Hungarian leftist liberal parties, their friendly press and Soros’s NGOs also attacked the Hungarian asset declaration system. The DK party, led by Ferenc Gyurcsany, asserted as early as in 2015 that Hungary’s asset declaration system was “unsuitable to make the declarations of the politicians of the corrupt government transparent and traceable.”

Transparency International Hungary, financed by George Soros, attacked the declaration system for its alleged “fragmentation” and “lack of efficiency” in a study made in the summer of 2016, and they complained about the “lack of meritorious sanctions.”

Tamas Harangozo, a member of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) said in 2017 that the circle of those required to submit a declaration should be extended and the method of data supply should be changed. Monitoring and sanctioning should also receive more emphasis, he added. In the same year, the left even launched a referendum initiative to have a stricter asset declaration system in place. The referendum was initiated by a former LMP (Hungary’s green party) politician, Tamas Schadi, as a private individual. The campaign was led by Gabor Vago, also ex-member of LMP.

Growing criticism

With the conflict between Hungary and Brussels widening – in parallel with the preparation of the rule of law procedure used as a weapon against Hungary – attacks against the asset declaration system also increased. At the beginning of 2018, Peter Juhasz, the then president of the Together (Egyutt) party, which has since ceased to exist, stated that politicians can easily circumvent the regulation, which he said was “laden with serious problems”.

At the end of 2019, Gyorgy Magyar, a lawyer who assisted in introducing and organising the primaries for the left-wing, described the asset declaration system as “something that doesn’t make any sense at all” on grounds that the municipality law includes no provisions as to what should happen if an asset declaration procedure is initiated against someone, and the person is found to have “lied” about his financial situation. “If there are no legal consequences, everyone can lie whatever they want,” Mr Magyar summed up. The economic weekly HVG even called the asset declaration system a farce in early 2020.

In February 2021, at the very beginning of the election campaign, Peter Marki-Zay and the Jobbik party competed with each other to forge political capital from this topic. The left’s former joint prime ministerial candidate demanded that the existing rules for asset declarations be made more transparent, while the party led by Peter Jakab contended for tightening the rules. Last summer, 444.hu, also known as George Soros’s blog, argued that the asset declaration system was “absolutely pointless in reality, because no one checks whether politicians are telling the truth when they fill out the forms”.

“Ridiculous” EP regulation

The fierce reaction drawn by the adoption of the EP rules in this year’s summer is rather perplexing in light of the criticism from left-wing press outlets and NGOs regarding the previous asset declaration system.

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, an NGO embedded in George Soros’ network, highlights that the EP’s system offers less authentic information than Hungary’s previous asset declaration system while the daily Nepszava wrote that the move would make the asset declaration system “even more ridiculous”. K-Monitor even acknowledged that the former system “made clear that the financial status and business relations of politicians holding key positions are a public matter, and the public has a right to know”.

As to the change to be made to the amendment of the asset declaration system adopted in June, the obligation to release annual or final asset declarations is expected to be restored to replace the obligation to report changes. The Hungarian government has already submitted the necessary amendment proposal, and the new law is to enter into force on 1 November.

POLITICS

Tags:

declaration of financial interests, European Union, Hungary