Tibor Navracsics, minister of regional development, held a meeting on Wednesday with the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control delegation. The meeting included discussions which may result in support for Hungary’s access to European Union funds.
Minister Navracsics said the talks achieved a foothold in mutual understanding, and he was “confident” members of the committee had been convinced on several issues by the Hungarian side’s objective arguments. The delegation was briefed on the ways in which Hungary intends to use EU funds, he said, adding that he sensed, however, that the delegation had not read background materials sent to them in advance. Also, “the political prejudices of many representatives” were evident and “factual mistakes” were made when questions were put to him. As an example, Navracsics said the government was accused in a blanket way of political bias when it came to the distribution of EU funds, and this is something the Hungarian side strove to refute. Answering a question, he said it appeared that on several issues at least, the committee’s opinion formed thus far had been nuanced. “I may risk saying that in some areas we have managed to convince them with data and facts,” the minister said. “So, I trust that we managed to gain a supporter in the longer term when it comes to accessing European Union funds.” Meanwhile, Navracsics said that from the questions formulated by the delegation’s members, it could be deduced that the mayor of Budapest, who recently had his own meeting with the committee, considered the government was “treating him unfairly”. The minister said he had told the delegation that the government’s dealings with the municipality were not a matter of party politics. Rather, he explained to them, affluent local councils must take their fair share of the burden during straitened times to offset lower contributions by struggling localities. This, he added, not only applied to Budapest but richer councils such as Debrecen, Győr, Székesfehérvár and Veszprém. Navracsics said the aim here was to boost financial support for regions which barely reach half of the EU average level of development. On the subject of public procurement, the Hungarian side told the delegation that the government has pledged to reduce the proportion of single-bid procedures to 15%, the EU average. He said significant progress was being made in this area. Navracsics said he was “moderately optimistic” regarding the delegation’s visit, though their opinion overall was “unlikely to be very high”. Hopefully, the government’s data would be accepted in areas that could be objectively verified or refuted, he added. Asked about the discord between the EU and the government over the Erasmus student programme, Navracsics said the matter was not discussed with the delegation.
The minister noted that he discussed Erasmus issues in Brussels on Tuesday, and he promised to send the government’s negotiating position to the European Commission next week. Though the government wants negotiations to go swiftly on this topic too, the situation was hindered by the fact that the commissioner dealing with this issue from Bulgaria was new and would have to be contacted. Later in the day, the delegation met State Secretary János Bókai at the justice ministry. After the talks, the ministry said in a statement that the delegation had “put forward political expectations beyond the EU’s conditionality procedure and super milestones” adding that the ministry “rejected” those expectations. “Political pressure jeopardises the credibility of procedures,” it said. “In Hungary EU funds are utilised well and in legitimate ways, guaranteed by recently established model institutions that serve as examples for the whole of Europe,” the ministry said.