Official: Norway 'blackmails' Hungary

Int’l Relations

A Hungarian official today accused the Norwegian government of engaging in “blackmail” in reaction to last week’s suggestion by the Norwegian ambassador that the transfer of HUF 36 bln, suspended in May, might be held until civil organization Ökotárs Foundation is able to carry on its work, Hungarian news agency MTI reported.

Nándor Csepreghy, deputy cabinet state secretary for development policy communications, reportedly said on public television that it “certainly is blackmail”, and added that Hungary is considering taking legal action.

Csepreghy emphasized that the two countries signed an agreement under which Hungary is entitled to the HUF 36 bln grant currently in question. Accordingly, Hungary does not impose customs duty on Norwegian products and services, under the same rules that pertain to the EU market.  “Now the Norwegian government is saying that while we have a dispute about an entirely different issue, we will not finance the funds which, according to the contract, are due to Hungary,” he said.

The Hungarian government had claimed that some of the NGOs are misusing the money and spending it on anti-government activities. After Norway rejected that claim, some of the NGO offices were raided by investigators, sparking an outcry from the Norwegians.

Csepreghy insisted that the government control office's (Kehi) investigation into Ökotárs was purely in connection with suspicions of “various infractions of regulations supported by substantive formulations and facts”. He finds the ambassador's comments to be "incomprehensible", given that they suggest that the Hungarian government would be able to influence a police investigation, he added.

He noted that the Prime Minister’s Office had not received an official reply from Norway regarding cabinet chief János Lázár’s invitation to discuss the matter in person. However, at a press conference in Budapest last week, ambassador Skarstein said that Norway had rejected Lázár’s invitation.

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