2022. 12. 11.

Corruption signs emerge around Hungarian national RRP to be voted this week

HR Talk: What to Do if Someone Steals from You? - Tina in Manila


If you are interested in how seriously we should take the Hungarian government's anti-corruption commitments amidst bitter fights over its Recovery Plan and the ongoing conditionality mechanism, you shouldn’t go too far: just read the Recovery Plan itself.

In its transport chapter, one of the few projects is a 30,3 km long railway reconstruction (Békéscsaba-Lőkösháza line, p.178), for € 350 million (146,8 bn HUF), or 12 million €/km. An extraordinary price for a railway reconstruction, even compared to the other similar rail project in the RRP (Almásfüzitő-Komárom), where the cost calculation comes to slightly more than one-third of this level (4,4 million €/km). The 12 million €/km is more or less equal to the estimated average price of the planned pan-European high-speed railway network according to a 2021 UN study („The investment cost of construction of the 26,000 km of the TER HSR is estimated at being around €321 bn”, or 12,3 million €/km 2017852_E_web_light.pdf (unece.org) ). This network runs through geographically challenging areas as well, while the Hungarian project will be constructed on a simple plain without major special structures (bridges over rivers, etc.)

How is it possible, that in Hungary a reconstruction of a simple railway costs the same as high-speed (over 250km/h) railway constructions with completely new tracks in other places in Europe?

There is a simple explanation. The project tender was already won last year by the best crony and friend of PM Viktor Orbán, the infamous Lőrinc Mészáros, in consortium with Strabag, the Austrian construction company linked to many corruption cases in the past two decades in Hungary. True, last year their bid was only less than € 310 million, which on the one hand was already 10% higher than the originally expected price of € 280 million, but there is multiple crises, that’s obvious that the prime minister’s childhood buddy merits some extra money – teachers demonstrating on the streets for higher wages or homeless people should tighten their belts instead. In comparison, the most expensive railway construction ever in Hungary (a direct line to the BMW factory in Debrecen) cost no more than 8,8 million €/km, this exceeded by 30% by the actual project. 

EU member states should decide on the Hungarian RRP and the conditionality mechanism this week. The European Commission previously proposed approving the national RRP and the freezing of € 7,5 bn in three operational programs. As far as we know, based on a German and French initiative on the one hand, and due to shameless blackmailing by the Hungarian government on the global minimum tax and the Ukrainian aid package on the other, the Council tended to “take into consideration the progress performed by the Hungarian government” and planned to considerably cut back the sum to be suspended by the EU. According to most recent news, the Commission maintains its original proposal, stating that the Hungarian anticorruption measures still lack convincing efficiency, and the German government might follow the EC’s reinforced proposal. What we can say at this very moment is that if they didn't want to believe the Hungarian spin, but wanted to know the reality, they don’t have to simply trust the Commission but their own eyes: they would only have to read the Hungarian RRP, which is awaiting approval. In black and white, it shows that the Hungarian government is already stealing from the unapproved plan as if there were no tomorrow, and it is also a clear indication of what the future holds. EU money will continue to leak away without trace into the pockets of the oligarchs of Viktor Orbán, and the Hungarian government will continue to have fun with the EU.

How far this will satisfy the EU, the German or the French government, no one can even guess today. In any case, if they had the will to do so, if they believed their eyes and not their desires, and if they at least read what they voted for, they would obviously have to stop wasting EU taxpayers' money in Hungary. If the Hungarian Government, amid its great anti-corruption commitment, has not at least withdrawn this corrupt public procurement clearly described on a paper to the EU, it says a lot not only about their cynicism but also about what will happen to the thousands of billions of euros that will have to be stolen not even from the illuminated shop window as it is done in this actual case.

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