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Orbàn's €7bn recovery plan should be withheld, demand Renew Europe MEPs

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Renew Europe MEPs wrote to Ursula von der Leyen to urge her not to approve the Hungarian government’s recovery plan until an effective anti-fraud system is put in place in Hungary.

The MEPs outlines how this could be done.

  • First, they demand that Viktor Orbán agrees to grant the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) access to the list of final beneficiaries of the Resilience and Recovery Facility Plan (RFF) money.
  • Second, they ask that persons and entities with a record of serious financial irregularities or conflicts of interest should be denied from receiving RRF funds.
  • Third, they urge that the laws obstructing investigative journalists and civil society organisations from accessing public information must be repealed or revised.

It is a priority for Renew Europe to ensure that the €7 billion recovery fund Hungary -will benefit all Hungarians and not a few politically-connected ones.

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In the letter sent yesterday (27 June) by President Dacian Cioloș, Vice-President Katalin Cseh, Luis Garicano, Vice-President and coordinator on budgetary affairs and Valérie Hayer, coordinator on economic affairs, to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the MEPs stated:

"Fraud in Viktor Orbán's Hungary is endemic — or to quote the Commission: it is 'systemic'. In 2020, your services found that Hungary's anti-corruption framework is inadequate and that "investigation and prosecution appears less effective in Hungary than in other member states" and "determined systematic action to prosecute high-level corruption is lacking."

They remind the Commission that an effective anti-fraud system is a criteria to access the recovery funds under the RRF regulation.

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The letter concludes:

"Madame President, you have endeavoured to travel around Europe to physically deliver the Commission's seals of approval of the national recovery plans. You took pictures with every leader whose plan was rated positively by your services. When you go to Budapest, we want you to be able to shake Viktor Orbán's hand, knowing that his cronies are not rubbing theirs together with glee."

Hungary

Pope urges Hungary to be more open to needy outsiders

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Pope Francis (pictured) said on Sunday (12 September) that Hungary could preserve its Christian roots while opening up to the needy, an apparent response to nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban's stand that Muslim immigration could destroy its heritage, write Philip Pullella and Gergely Szakacs.

Francis was in Hungary for an unusually short stay that underlined differences with the anti-immigrant Orban, his political opposite.

Closing a Church congress with a Mass for tens of thousands of people in central Budapest, Francis used the imagery of a cross to show that something as deeply rooted as religious belief did not exclude a welcoming attitude.

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"The cross, planted in the ground, not only invites us to be well-rooted, it also raises and extends its arms towards everyone," he said in his remarks after the Mass.

"The cross urges us to keep our roots firm, but without defensiveness; to draw from the wellsprings, opening ourselves to the thirst of the men and women of our time," he said at the end of the open-air Mass, which Orban attended with his wife.

"My wish is that you be like that: grounded and open, rooted and considerate," the pope said.

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Francis has often denounced what he sees as a resurgence of nationalist and populist movements, and has called for European unity, and criticised countries that try to solve the migration crisis with unilateral or isolationist actions.

Orban, by contrast, told the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia last week the only solution to migration was for the European Union to "give all rights back to the nation state".

Pope Francis arrives to meet with representatives of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, Hungary, September 12, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Pope Francis greets people as he arrives in Heroes' Square in Budapest, Hungary, September 12, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Pope Francis arrives at Budapest International Airport in Budapest, Hungary, September 12, 2021. Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS   ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

The pope has called for migrants to be welcomed and integrated to tackle what he has called Europe's "demographic winter". Orban said in Slovenia that today's migrants "are all Muslims" and that only "the traditional Christian family policy can help us out of that demographic crisis."

Francis, 84, who spent only around seven hours in Budapest, met Orban and President Janos Ader at the start of his visit.

The Vatican said the meeting which was also attended by the Vatican's top two diplomats and a Hungarian cardinal, lasted about 40 minutes and was cordial.

"I asked Pope Francis not to let Christian Hungary perish," Orban said on Facebook. Hungarian news agency MTI said Orban gave Francis a facsimile of a letter that 13th century King Bela IV sent to Pope Innocent IV asking for help in fighting the Tartars.

Later on Sunday Francis arrived in Slovakia, where he will stay much longer, visiting four cities before returning to Rome on Wednesday.

The brevity of his Budapest stay has prompted diplomats and Catholic media to suggest the pope is giving priority to Slovakia, in effect snubbing Hungary. Read more.

The Vatican has called the Budapest visit a "spiritual pilgrimage". Orban's office has said comparisons with the Slovakia leg would be "misleading".

The trip is the pope's first since undergoing major surgery in July. Francis told reporters on the plane taking him to Budapest that he was "feeling fine".

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Agriculture

Agriculture: Commission approves new geographical indication from Hungary

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The Commission has approved the addition of ‘Szegedi tükörponty' from Hungary in the register of Protected Geographical Indications (PGI). ‘Szegedi tükörponty' is a fish of the carp species, produced in Szeged region, near Hungary's southern border, where a system of fish ponds was created. The alkaline water of the ponds gives the fish a particular vitality and resilience. The flaky, reddish, flavorsome flesh of the fish farmed in these ponds, and its fresh aroma with no side-tastes, can be directly attributed to the specific saline land.

The quality and flavour of the fish are directly influenced by the good oxygen supply at the lake bed in the fish ponds created on saline soil. The flesh of ‘Szegedi tükörponty' is high in protein, low in fat and very flavoursome. The new denomination will be added to the list of 1563 products already protected in the eAmbrosia database. More information online on quality products.

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Hungary

Commission approves new geographical indication for Hungary

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The European Commission has approved the application for the inclusion of “Jászsági nyári szarvasgomba” from Hungary in the Register of Protected Geographical Indications (PGI). "Jászsági nyári szarvasgomba" means the local fresh variety of underground fungus of the species white summer truffle, collected in the region of Jászság, in the north-west of the Hungarian Great Plain. Its scent is unique and pleasant. When picked, it first exhibits aromas of cooked corn or roasted and fermented malted barley, accompanied by the characteristic scent of freshly cut grass.

During the harvest period and during storage, the scent changes, but it retains the typical aroma of freshly cut grass. Its taste itself is intense. The “Jászsági nyári szarvasgomba” grow from the end of May until the end of August. The conditions in the Jászság region are particularly favorable for the establishment and multiplication of summer truffles. Some of the other names used by the population to qualify “Jászsági nyári szarvasgomba”, such as “black diamond of Jászság”, “gold of Jászság” or even “Jász trifla”, all indicate that the product is very appreciated in the region. This new name will join the 1,561 food products already registered, the list of which is available in the eAmbrosia database.

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