Our traditional closing conference of the year was organised on the occasion of the International Anti-Corruption Day. This time it was also the closing event of our “Building from each other” called EU project. The presenters said, although after the regime change seemed that in Hungary there will be a Western European institutional system, this tendency turned back in the recent years. However the social perception on corruption is significant, this perception is usually based on political sympathies, and the power of the EU is limited in the fight against the corruption.
“The undermining of the rule of law and corruption are connected. The political power influences all those state institutions which role should be to control them. The way how the politically influenced prosecution works shows, that if you sit close to the fire you will get off, but if you are far from the government, you will be punished.” – said József Péter Martin, the executive director of TI Hungary, in his opening speech at this years “Átláccó” Festival.
The “shameless overpricing”, the corruption annuities in between 15-24% and the state capture led not only to the wasting of public funds, but also to the “general undermining” of public life – said Péter Balázs, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and professor of CEU, in our opening presentation. Péter Balázs added that although the EU can moderate processes of its member states it wasn’t created to do that. The former Minister of Foreign Affairs also said that the role of the EU is like a boom barrier, which “signals in case of emergency, but doesn’t make you stop.”
The participants of the first panel discussion talked about how could the EU help its member states to observe the norms of the rule of law. Gilles Pelayo, the leader of the European Commission’s “Europe for citizens” programme, emphasised that corruption undermines democracy, so it’s very important to realise integrity on every level of the public administration. Pelayo Added: integrity’s protectors are the citizens, so actually they are the celebrated ones on the International Anti-Corruption Day.
Krisztina Arató, the chairman of the Hungarian Political Science Association said: the EU is an “extremely cooperative” system in which Hungary and some other member states brought something new with the fact, that they’re not cooperating in several questions. In term of the use of the structural bases she added: the EU can’t help, if we are using structural bases in a way, in which it’s not useful, it’s unsustainable and even illegal.
István György Tóth, the head of TÁRKI emphasised that although the perception on corruption is significant in Hungary, there is a new phenomenon, that the perceptions connected to the transparency on public life are connected to political sympathies. Zoltán Fleck, a senior lecturer at the Eötvös Loránd University’s Faculty of Law, added: it’s not enough that researches say that people think corruption is reprehensible if international investors don’t care. “It came to light, that democracy and capitalism are not connected, because there is an unbelievable cynicism in capitalist regimes” – said Zoltán Fleck. It’s hard to investigate the corruption connected to the public procurements, because the documents connected to these cases are complicated to review so in the interpretation the specialised NGOs are very important – added Gabriella Nagy, TI Hungary’s head of public financed programmes.
In a debate starter presentation, before the second panel discussion, János Kertész network researcher and professor of the CEU, presented results of a new research which took place in 169 Hungarian cities. Research showed that the chance of corruption is significantly higher in those cities where the “social capital is more closed”, as opposed to those cities where the inhabitants have intensive relations with inhabitants of other cities. Considering this they also discovered that there is a higher chance of corruption in cities affected by the Elios-gate.
The second panel discussion of the conference was about the opportunities of the civil participation in the shrinking civil and media space. About the government-friendly media foundation, Márton Gulyás activist said: the media owners have a huge responsibility in that they handed the last daily newspapers to the Orbán regime. According to Miklós Ligeti, the legal director of TI Hungary, the foundations which are connected to the government in fact are “companies running business activities, which are trying to avoid regulations of the economic companies”. The participants of the panel discussion see no chance to turn back the media concentration in the near future. Nonetheless, Ákos Hadházy, an independent member of the Parliament of Hungary, said that it’s not true that the Hungarian people are not ready to unite for a good cause. He added that the signature drive aiming to join Hungary the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, is a good counterexample. Hadházy also urged the establishment of a public service media network at European level.
At the event, we also announced the “How would you spend EU’s money?” poster competition’s results, which was the part of the project called “We build on each other”.