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EU wants Hungary to change procurement, cites "systemic irregularities"

02/08/2021 | 06:06am EDT

(Corrects to say European Commission "wants" rather than "has told" Hungary to change procurement rules)

BRUSSELS, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The European Union's executive wants Hungary to reform its public procurement laws to curb what it calls "systemic irregularities" before billions of euros from the EU pandemic recovery fund become available, according to an internal document seen by Reuters.

The European Commission is mandated with managing the 750-billion-euro scheme and has already told several EU states their proposals for spending their part of the funds must be improved.

There was no immediate response from the Hungarian government to an emailed request for comment on the document.

The bloc wants outright changes to Hungary's public procurement laws, according to the Jan. 26 Commission document laying out specific legal changes required of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government.

"Competition in public procurement is insufficient in practice," said the document, adding that that was linked to "systemic irregularities" that "led to the highest financial correction in the history of (EU) structural funds in 2019".

The document called specifically for improved data transparency and accessibility, arguing that that would lead to a fairer and more open procurement process.

Budapest, which has had a series of battles with EU authorities over rule of law issues, is due to get nearly 6.3 billion euros in free grants from the recovery scheme if its spending plan is proposed by an end-of-April deadline, and then accepted by Brussels and other EU countries. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Mark John and Jon Boyle)


ę Reuters 2021
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