Lázár: Hungary would pay EC a fine to free up HUF 500 bln
Hungary might agree to pay a fine to the EC for improper tendering of road work in order to free up HUF 500 billion in funding, Cabinet Chief János Lázár said today. Delivering his weekly press conference, Lázár also defended property purchases by central bank foundations and said he is not worried about anyone in the government being named in the “Panama Papers”.
Cabinet Chief János Lázár, right, and government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács in Budapest today. (MTI/Zoltan Mathe)
Lázár said Hungary is close to reaching an agreement with the European Commission during ongoing talks about a dispute over road construction tenders. Under the agreement, Hungary would pay a fine for the practice of requiring bidders in road construction tenders to have asphalt units in close proximity to projects, the minister was reported as saying.
The EC is withholding HUF 500 bln in funding pending a probe of procurement practices in Hungary. Lázár said Hungary received a “favorable” offer during talks with the EC today, according to state news agency MTI. Only a few other issues regarding Hungarian handling EC funds needed to be addressed, and talks will continue tomorrow, the minister was reported as saying by MTI.
No fear of Panama Papers
Lázár said there were no concerns in the Hungarian government about the Panama Papers revelations, naming officials holding offshore assets, because members of the government declare their assets “appropriately”.
Lázár noted that it is not a crime to be the owner of an offshore company, and said he is not afraid of any government member being mentioned in the papers.
“We do not know clearly what is contained in the papers, but it seems that somebody’s name is mentioned every day,” Hungarian online daily origo.hu quoted the minister as saying.
Public money turns into public property
Regarding the transparency of public spending by foundations of the National Bank of Hungary (MNB), Lázár said the MNB had simply turned public money into public properties, which are being used in the public interest. “As I understand it, the foundation’s HUF 260 billion was generated from the central bank’s revenues,” he said, according to origo.hu.
Following a freedom-of-information request by a journalist about spending by MNB foundations, Parliament on March 1 passed legislation making the spending of the foundations secret, but President János Áder withheld his signature and requested a review by the Constitutional Court. The court ruled on March 31 that the legislation was not constitutional, and Central Bank Governor György Matolcsy has since said the accounts would be made public.
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