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Self-cleansing transparency

Hungary’s deputy prime minister has called upon businesses to help the government increase transparency and fight corruption. Tibor Navracsics, who is also Minister of Public Administration and Justice, was talking at an AmCham Hungary transparency conference on Tuesday entitled “Self-cleaning”.

“Corruption is not just a political but also a cultural problem because we have a general lack of trust in society,” he told delegates. His department was doing its best to set an example to others: “We are much more disciplined than before, responsibilities are much clearer,” he said.

“In the budget debate this year we were able to fight for additional funds for the judiciary in order to ensure a very strong anti-corruption fight.” Specialists are being hired for the prosecutor’s office, rules tightened, more efforts are being targeted at ensuring courts had easy access to existing funding, and from next year “punishment will be more severe”. Navracsics said that as a deterrent he wanted to ensure even complex cases could be dealt with quickly, rather than dragging on for years, otherwise “the belief of citizens in the [state] system will diminish”.

But all of that only helps create a background. “Just deterring is not enough; a culture of integrity has to be spread and this is just as important. We should also have ethical expectations in public administration.”

A code of conduct is being established with the aim of making people and businesses more confident on the system, rather than relying on finding individual clerks within it who work in a proper way. And Hungary is joining international efforts to fight corruption at an EU and UN level.

“But international coalition is not worth much unless you have domestic coalition. We are working with the court of auditors on prevention protocols and sharing experiences.” The justice minister said thought it would be “very useful to sign an agreement” between the two bodies “to ensure regular cooperation.”

The conference, which was opened by US Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulus Kounalakis, also saw the publication of AmCham’s “Policy Statement on Transparency”. (Robin Marshall)