Based on international treaties between the European Union and the three countries that are not EU members but are part of the European Economic Area – namely Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – a sum of EUR 214. 6 million in funding has been earmarked for Hungary for the period between 2014 and 2021, which would technically apply to projects carried out between 2017 and 2024. Per the agreement, these funds can only be utilized once the EEA donor countries have identified an organization to act as a fund operator, supervising the distribution of the grants.
The ideal pick for the donor countries, obviously, was a consortium headed by the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation (Ökotárs Alapítvány in Hungarian), a group of NGOs affiliated with George Soros, pushing the values of his “open society” utopia.
Since the beginning of talks between the donors and the Hungarian government on the distribution of funds in 2016, we have consistently argued that no fund operator should be chosen in Hungary without the consent of the government. In light of this, on December 21, 2020, Hungary signed a memorandum of understanding with the Norwegian-led group, which states that the fund operator must be appointed based on a consensual decision. The memorandum gave the parties seven months to come to an agreement, a deadline that expired in July without a positive outcome.
And that was when the Norwegian Foreign Ministry began pointing fingers at the Hungarian government, framing us as the culprits who made a potential compromise impossible. That’s quite a claim, so let’s look at what really happened.
Throughout the negotiation process, which began last December, the Hungarian government was vocal about our position that we would not accept Ökotárs Alapítvány, as they have virtually monopolized the role of fund operator by taking on the position during the two previous funding cycles. Informally, the donors continuously communicated that they agreed with our mandate and were ready to accept an organization that scored above 60 on the complex, 100-point rating scale.
In the two-round application process, two consortiums out of a total of seven scored above 60 points: the Ökotárs-led group and another one spearheaded by the Hungarian Red Cross, with 84.83 and 68.67 points, respectively. Note that in at least two other recipient states, a result of around 60 points has landed organizations the job.
In the end, contrary to the signals sent during the process, the donors ruled that they would only accept Ökotárs as a fund operator in Hungary. Meanwhile, the Hungarian government would have happily accepted six out of the original seven applicants. It seems that, after all, Norway was not so keen on finding common ground.
What’s really happening here is that Norway clearly does not want to live up to its contractual obligations because Hungary holds a world view that is inherently different from the left-liberal “open society” nonsense that’s trending in the Nordic countries and most of Western Europe. But that’s not an acceptable excuse. Maybe some enterprising reporter should ask the Norwegians why they aren’t making good on the agreement.
Oh, lest we forget: There’ll be plenty of room for us to renegotiate the details of the deal, as a unanimous decision is required within the EU to launch the next funding cycle. Without that, nobody gets to “enjoy” the “benefits” of this “impartial” fund.