Orbán confirms he had a hand in the distribution of EU funds

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“This hasn’t changed, this is the lawful process, only the Minister has changed since then,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a television interview with RTL this weekend, in response to statements by former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis in her book. 

Kounakalis, who was the ambassador stationed in Budapest between 2010 and 2013, cited former Minister of Development Lászlóné Németh in her recently published book, “Madam Ambassador”, saying that every week, Németh would sit down with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to review the list of public construction projects, set their priorities and determine which public procurement tenders should win.

The former minister reportedly added that “if a Hungarian company’s bid was competitive compared to an Austrian or German bid, then the Hungarian bid would be the winner”.  The legislation regulating public procurement tenders and the use of EU funds signed by Viktor Orbán allows the Nemzeti Fejlesztési Kabinet (Cabinet for National Development - NFK) to decide on a number of questions, including, among others, operating programs, action plans and selection criteria, but it is not entitled to select winners.

On Monday, Viktor Orbán told online daily nol.hu that their practice was in line with the regulations and approved by the EU. Online news portal 444.hu, however, says that in an internal memorandum the European Commission questions NFK’s role in the public procurement process for bids above HUF 1 bln. Orbán has yet to refute Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis’ allegations.

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