Hungary slid to bottom place among EU nations in a corruption index, with graft watchdog Transparency International on Tuesday alleging misuse by “political elites” of state and bloc funds.
Hungary has been embroiled in a long-running spat with Brussels over corruption and rule of law concerns that have led to the freezing of billions of euros of bloc funding.
In a bid to unlock the funds, Budapest committed to a range of legal and anti-corruption reforms, including the set-up of a watchdog that includes a Transparency International staff member.
Hungary replaced Bulgaria as the last among EU and Western European countries in the group’s “Corruption Perceptions Index” report for 2022 launched on Tuesday.
The report noted “a decade of democratic backsliding and systemic deterioration of the rule of law at the hands of the ruling party.”
“Evidence is mounting against political elites on their misuse of both state and EU funds,” it said.
Budapest hit back at Transparency, pointing to a corruption scandal in Brussels that emerged last month with one of the assembly’s vice presidents charged in connection with allegations of bribery.
“It is interesting that Transparency International did not investigate either the Brussels bureaucracy or the European Parliament,” a government statement said.
The statement accused the watchdog of “belonging to the Soros network” referring to the 92-year-old Hungarian-born U.S. financier George Soros who Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accuses of meddling in Hungarian and global politics.
The annual Transparency report ranks 180 countries around the world and territories on a corruption scale since 1995 based on surveys with experts and businesspeople.