GRECO has published its latest report on Hungary on September 8, 2022. The report concludes that Hungary has implemented satisfactory or dealt with in a satisfactory manner six out of eighteen recommendations contained in the Fourth Round Evaluation Report. On the twelve remaining pending recommendations, three recommendations have now been partly implemented and nine recommendations remain not implemented.
The Rapporteurs of the Report were Mr. Christian MANQUET (Austria) and Mr. Sorin TANASE (Romania) who were assisted by GRECO’s Secretariat.
Now I am going to examine the specific recommendations one by one in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors.
Corruption prevention in respect of members of parliament:
Five recommendations concerned the members of parliament and none of these recommendations seemed to be implemented by national authorities. In this regard, GRECO recommended the following:
- to ensure that all legislative proposals are processed with an adequate level of transparency and consultation and,
- that rules be introduced for members of parliament on how to interact with lobbyistsand other third parties seeking to influence the parliamentary process; (recommendation i) – that a code of ethics/conduct for members of parliament be adopted, including in respect of their staff as appropriate – covering various situations of conflicts of interest (gifts and other advantages, third party contacts, lobbyists, accessory activities, post-employment situations, etc.) and that it be complemented by practical measures for its implementation, such as dedicated training and counselling; (recommendation ii) –
- that a requirement of ad hoc disclosure be introduced for members of parliament for situations of personal conflicts of interest which may emerge during the parliamentary proceedings and that rules for such situations be developed; (recommendation iii) –
- to ensure (i) that the obligation upon members of parliament to disclose outside occupations and activities of a non-financial character are applied in practice; and (ii) that all declarations as submitted follow a format, which allows for adequate public scrutiny over time, preferably by using electronic means; (recommendation iv)
- that appropriate measures be taken in order to ensure that the procedures of lifting the immunity of parliamentarians do not hamper criminal investigations in respect of members of parliament suspected of having committed corruption related offences; (recommendation v)
GRECO recalled that these five recommendations were not implemented in the Second Interim Compliance Report and no tangible results had been achieved in this respect.
GRECO also recommended that appropriate measures to be taken to ensure effective supervision and enforcement of the existing and yet to be established rules on the conduct, conflict of interest and interest declarations of members of parliament and that adequate and proportionate sanctions be introduced to that end. This recommendation was partly implemented in the Second Interim Compliance Report in 2019, and now GRECO notes that no further progress has been made regarding this recommendation.
Corruption prevention in respect of judges:
GRECO recommended that the powers of the President of the National Judicial Office to intervene in the process of appointing and promoting candidates for judicial positions be reviewed in favour of a procedure where the National Judicial Council is given a stronger role. GRECO noted that it does not appear that any pertinent measures have been taken to review the powers of the President of the National Judicial Office and provide a stronger role of the National Judicial Council in the process of appointing and promoting candidates for judicial positions – as recommended by GRECO – since the adoption of the last evaluation report. Therefore, this recommendation remains not implemented.
GRECO recommended that the power of the President of the National Judicial Office to re-assign ordinary judges without their constant be reduced to a minimum in time and only for precise and particular reasons of a temporary character. GRECO notes that no further progress was done in this respect and maintains the view that it should not be possible to reassign a judge without his/her consent as often as is provided for in the Act on the Legal Status and Renumeration of Judges (Section 31.3) every three years for up to one year, given that the removability of judges is an important feature of their independence, as pointed out by the Venice Commission. Therefore, this recommendation remains not implemented.
GRECO recommended that the immunity of ordinary judges be limited to activities relating to their participation in the administration of justice („functional immunity”). No progress has been done in this respect, and this recommendation remains not implemented.
Corruption prevention in respect of prosecutors:
GRECO recommended that the possibility 1) to re-elect the Prosecutor General be re-considered and 2) the possibility to maintain the Prosecutor General in office after the expiry of his mandate by a minority blocking of the election in Parliament of a successor be reviewed by the Hungarian authorities.
GRECO takes note of that the first half of the recommendation was partly implemented but no measures have been taken to review the situation that the Prosecutor General may remain in officer after the expiry of his mandate. Therefore, this recommendation remains partly implemented.
GRECO recommended that the removal of cases from subordinate prosecutors be guided by strict criteria and that such decisions are to be justified in writing. GRECO recalls that this recommendation was partly implemented int he Second Interim Compliance Report as the removal of cases from subordinate prosecutors had to be justified in writing but the requirement of „strict criteria” was not fulfilled. Furthermore, GRECO welcomes the entry into force of the amendment in Section 60/A of Order 12/2012. (VI.8.) issued by the Prosecutor General which includes a list of precise criteria on the removal of cases as well as written justification. Therefore, this recommendation has been implemented satisfactorily.
GRECO recommended that the immunity of public prosecutors be limited to activities relating to their participation in the administration of justice („functional immunity”). GRECO reiterates that this recommendation remains not implemented.
GRECO recommended that disciplinary proceedings in respect of prosecutors be handled outside the immediate hierarchical structure of the Prosecution Service and in a way that provides for enhanced accountability and transparency. GRECO remains concerned that it is still the direct superior prosecutor who decides on the merits of the case, rather than an impartial body. Objections filed on the ground of bias also appear to be handled within the immediate hierarchical structure. While there have been improvements, GRECO cannot yet say that disciplinary proceedings are now handled outside the immediate hierarchical structure in a way that provides for enhanced accountability and transparency, as required by the recommendation. The involvement of the immediate superior prosecutor is particularly striking in this respect. Therefore, this recommendation remains partly implemented.