Transparency International ranks Hungary as most corrupt EU country

Transparency International ranks Hungary as most corrupt EU country
Prime Minister Viktor Orban (right) watching a football game with Lorinc Meszaros, who has become a billionaire under his friend's 12-year rule. / bne IntelliNews
By Tamas Csonka in Budapest February 1, 2023

Hungary was the most corrupt country in the EU last year and ranked as low as 77th globally, next to Burkina Faso and Kuwait, Trinidad and Tobago, or Vietnam, according to Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report released on January 31.

Hungary's score on the index, ranging from 0 to 100, with 0 being the most corrupt, dropped from 43 a year earlier to 42. It has fallen by 10 points in ten years. Last year, Hungary and Bulgaria shared the EU’s most corrupt country states jointly. 

Never has one country slid that much in the ranking in a decade than Viktor Orban's government, according to the report.

In the early 2010s, Hungary and its CEE peers along with Baltic countries were more or less in the same group in the CPI ranking, but since then Budapest has been a clear laggard. In the 2022 report, Czechia and Slovenia were ranked 41st with 56 points each, Poland 45th with 55 points and Slovakia 49th with 53 points, and Croatia 57th with 50 points in TI’s corruption ranking. 

In 2012 Lithuania was one point behind Hungary, the current list ranks the country 33rd globally with 62 points.

TI Hungary said that due to the long lead time of the survey, the impact of the government measures to free up EU funds is not yet reflected in the latest CPI results just published. 

The European Commission froze 55% of funds to Hungary from the three operational programmes for the 2021-2027 budget cycle, or €6.3bn in funding, 30% of the total. Budapest has to meet 17 conditions (“super milestones”) set by the European Commission. The EU also tied the de-blocking of €5.8bn direct grant from the Recovery Fund (RRF) to adhering to 27 conditions.

"If the Commission rigorously monitors the implementation of the new rules, misuse of EU funds can be expected to decrease in the future, but the institutional destruction of the last decade will not be undone and the rule of law will not be restored in one fell swoop", said Jozsef Peter Martin, head of TI Hungary,  presenting the report.

According to TI Hungary, the package is not suitable to restore the rule of law since corruption permeates the state structure and abuses have become part of the system. State capture was already complete by the middle of the previous decade, he added.

Hungary vowed to make public procurement more transparent, reduce the share of single bid procedures, which are at one of the highest levels in the EU. The government set up the Integrity Authority, a state administrative body autonomous of the government and an anti-corruption task force working alongside it. 

In its investigative role, the Integrity Authority may conduct investigations in individual cases and request the actions of other public bodies. 

As on previous occasions, the government downplayed the report, saying Transparency International is a member of the Soros network.

"It is interesting that Transparency International did not investigate the Brussels bureaucracy or the European Parliament, they were somehow left off the list", a statement by the Government Information Centre read, referring to the Qatargate scandal rocking the European Parliament.