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Hungarian PM faces corruption allegations while he feuds with EU

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party has been suspended from the European Parliament’s main centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) grouping.

The suspension has largely been attributed to concerns about Orban’s lack of commitment to the rule of law in Hungary. A committee of three will consider if Fidesz should be readmitted to the grouping. But Orban is also facing increasing criticism within Hungary, with allegations that he has mis-spent 25 billion euros ($28.3 billion) in European Union subsidies on overpriced or unnecessary projects that benefit his allies.

Independent lawmaker Akos Hadhazy launched a petition in September, hoping to collect a million signatures to pressure Orban’s government into joining the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), a new anticorruption warchdog for EU funding. More than 470,000 Hungarian citizens have now added their signatures to the petition.

In Transparency International’s latest annual survey on public corruption, Hungary sits in 26th place out of the 28 EU countries, bettering only Greece and Bulgaria.

Hadhazy and other critics said Hungary’s Chief Prosecutor, Peter Polt, has failed to investigate many cases of suspected corruption, some even touching Orban’s family. “There are two bastions that keep this populist regime in power,” Hadhazy said, “one is the chief prosecutor and the other is public media and government propaganda,” 

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto defended Polt, saying that criticism of the former Fidesz parliamentary candidate was part of a “a coordinated series of political attacks.”

Almost 40% of the European structural funds received by Hungary have been allocated to projects in the capital, including a fourth subway line, the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, the reopening of Buda Castle’s Garden Bazaar and the construction of Europe’s largest ice-skating rink at City Park.

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